The Temple Mount, the holiest site for the Jewish people, has long been a source of tension between Israel and her Arab neighbors. Now, Jordan’s King Abdullah II has demanded that Jews continue to be barred from praying at the holy place, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have acquiesced.
Israel recaptured the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, from Jordan in 1967. Following a claim of sovereignty over the region, Israel offered administrative control over the Mount to Jordan as a gesture of good faith.
The al-Aqsa mosque stands there, and it is a Muslim holy site, as well. According to the law, only Muslims are allowed to pray or worship on the Temple Mount in any form. Jewish access to the Mount is limited.
Recently, there have been rising tensions and riots over the Temple Mount, as Arab visitors have protested any Jewish presence at the site. On the other side, growing interest in reversing the Jewish prayer ban on the Mount led to Likud MK Miri Regev proposing a bill which would allow Jews to pray there freely.
It is in response to Regev’s bill that Jordan issued its request to enforce the ban on prayer. IDF Radio reported that Jordan’s Ambassador to Israel Walid Obeidat demanded clarifications from the Foreign Ministry Tuesday on the new bill.
The Prime Minister’s Office responded that “the Prime Minister has repeatedly made clear in recent weeks that there is no intention of carrying out a change in the status quo on the Temple Mount and that the ones causing the provocations are extremist Palestinian elements.”
The Temple Institute‘s International Director, Rabbi Chaim Richman, condemned Netanyahu’s statement, branding it an “explicit admission that the State of Israel has officially relinquished sovereignty at the Jewish people’s holiest site.
“The status-quo referred to here is the illegal and undemocratic prohibition against all forms of Jewish prayer, worship, or identity at the Temple Mount.
“The manner in which Jews are treated on the Temple Mount is anti-Semitic and is a flagrant violation of the most basic human rights. A bill was submitted to the Knesset that called for Jews to be able to pray on the Temple Mount, and this bill ‘caused alarm’ in Jordan so Netanyahu assured King Abdullah that this would not happen. By doing so, Prime Minister Netanyahu has proven himself to be a vassal of Abdullah and the not the leader of the independent State of Israel,“ he admonished.
“He can invoke the tired mantra that ‘the Temple Mount is in our hands,’ and Israel is sovereign at the site, but the words are worthless,” Richman continued. “At a time of unprecedented numbers of Jews ascending the Temple Mount in purity, increased public awareness as to the importance of the Temple Mount for the Jewish people, and a sizable number of Knesset members calling for the right to Jewish prayer at the site, Netanyahu has displayed gross insensitivity to Jewish needs, rights, and feelings, and a total disconnect from the soul of the people of Israel.”
Regev’s bill is set to come to a vote next month before the Knesset.