Jamal Awad/Flash90
Temple Mount

The Palestinian Authority fabricated charges that Israelis are threatening Muslims and Muslim worship on the Temple Mount.

By Baruch Yedid, TPS

Israeli and Jordanian officials are expected to hold a special conference to discuss the recent clashes on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, as well as the future of the trusteeship over the site, which is the holiest spot on Earth to Jews and is also considered holy by Muslims.

Palestinian Authority (PA) official Hussein al-Sheikh told TPS that ahead of any such summit Jordanians and Palestinians are seeking to draft a new status quo agreement on the governance of the Temple Mount. Their intention is to restore the status quo as it was before 2000.

The news comes as the PA fabricated charges that Israelis are threatening Muslims and Muslim worship at the site.

Arabs stockpiled stones on the Temple Mount just before the start of the Passover holiday earlier this month. The stones were to be used against both police and Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount, as well as those praying at the Western Wall Plaza below. A violent clash erupted when the Arabs tried to stop the police from removing the stockpile of stones.

This event, as well as others, has been used to advance the false claim that Israel is trying to alter the status quo on the Temple Mount.

However, the opposite was in fact true. For example, Israeli authorities arrested the members of one Jewish group that planned on performing a Passover sacrifice there and the government promised that it would not change its longstanding policies prohibiting such activities by Jews there.

Jordan Making Demands

After Israel liberated the Old City of Jerusalem in the Six-Day-War in 1967, it allowed the Muslim Waqf to maintain authority over the Temple Mount where the two Jewish Temples once stood. The site is also home to the Al Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest shrines in Islam. As such, successive Israeli governments allowed the Jordanian-backed organization a level of autonomy there.

Over the years, the Waqf has been permitted to implement policies that discriminate against non-Muslims on the Temple Mount. For example, while many gates allow access to the site, non-Muslims are only permitted entrance through one of them. And Jews are prohibited from praying anywhere on the Temple Mount.

Since the implementation of the Oslo Accords in 1994, however, the PA has increased its influence in the governing of the Temple Mount compound, to the dismay of the Jordanian monarchs who wish to maintain their status as protectors of the holy site.

Arab sources reported to TPS that Jordan will soon demand an increase in Waqf’s workforce on the Temple Mount and that it has already forwarded an official document on the matter to the White House.

There are currently 256 Jerusalem Arabs – mostly young people – serving as Waqf guards on the Temple Mount. They are divided into three shifts and are spread out over ten different gates that lead up into the compound. The Waqf claims that it suffers from a shortage of manpower on night shifts.

This is significant as it is currently the Muslim month of Ramadan in which people fast every day in the daytime. Jerusalem has seen multiple incidents of Arab violence this year committed in the period just after sundown when the fast ended.

Jordan claims that 60 of the guards are elderly and nearing retirement age. Its government has been demanding for several years now that they be replaced.

Do Israeli Visitors Constitute a Threat?

Sources within the Waqf told TPS that it blames the Israeli police for preventing such a change in staff. The sources added that Jordanian officials now want to increase the number the total number of Temple Mount guards without first receiving the approval of the Israeli police to do so.

It should be noted that 40 people affiliated with the Waqf have been arrested or banned from the area by Israel Police in recent months.

In 2017, the Jordanian Waqf appointed 60 new guards, but Israeli authorities did not sanction this and so they have been prohibited from working as such on the Temple Mount. The Waqf says that this is because it will not honor Israel’s request that it be given the personal information about these candidates for a security background check.

The Waqf has also fallen back on the old claim that it needs to increase its own security personnel on the Temple Mount in order to protect the holy site from an increase in Jewish visitors there. They continue to assert that Israeli visitors to the Temple Mount somehow constitute a threat to its sovereignty, as well as a threat to Muslim worship at the site.