Dec 08, 2021

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Public Security Minister Omer Barlev announced on Sunday that the “status quo” on the Temple Mount “was in place and will remain in place.”

“Israel Police scrupulously maintains the status quo at the Temple Mount, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims,” said Barlev. “The police have worked to protect the status quo — save for exceptional circumstances — which they have quickly identified and acted against.”

The status quo as it relates to the Temple Mount is based on a firman (decree) of Ottoman sultan Osman III in 1757 that preserved the division of ownership and responsibilities of various Christian holy places. This status quo was applied by the United Nations Conciliation Commission in 1948 to nine sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem which did not include the Temple Mount. The status quo was not respected after Jordan took control of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1948 and Jews were prohibited from visiting any of their Holy Places in the city.

Israeli law protects universal rights to religious freedom which includes the right of worship at holy sites. But the Hight court ruled in 1976 that this right could be limited by the police due to security considerations. 

The Temple Mount is the holiest site to Jews as it is the location of both Temples described in the Bible and is prophesied to be the site of the Third Temple.

Some Muslims believe that the grey-domed mosque on the Temple Mount is the Aqsa Mosque (further mosque) to which Mohammad made a magical overnight journey. Most Muslim scholars claim that Al-Aqsa is located in Al-Ju’ranah near Mecca, in Saudi Arabia.

Twelve days ago, Justice Bilha Yahalom of Jerusalem’s Magistrate Court accepted an appeal by Temple Mount activist Rabbi Aryeh Lippo against the police ban on prayer. That ruling was greeted by threats of violence from Arabs. Just a few days later, another judge accepted a legal appeal by the police and repealed the ability of Jews to pray at their holiest site.

Hebrew-language Walla news site reported on Sunday that according to sources in the Shin Bet,  Israel’s internal security service also known as the Shabak, were concerned that certain elements of the Jewish right-wing that were planning on inciting Arab violence by holding a prayer service on the Temple Mount. 

In addition to operating against threats from the Arab sector, the Shin Bet also operates a Department for Counter-intelligence and Prevention of Subversion in the Jewish Sector, also known as the “Jewish Department” that operates against right-wing elements they deem threatening.

Walla also reported that Shin Bet agents claimed that “elements in the Arab world and Turkey” were trying to use such actions by “Jewish extremists” to increase the conflict.