Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned Tuesday that he and fellow Palestinians would not allow Jews to “contaminate” the Temple Mount, adding that allowing Jewish prayer at the site would result in a global “religious war.”
In a speech given to thousands at a gathering commemorating the 10th anniversary of the death of PLO leader Yasser Arafat in Ramallah, Abbas warned that the Israeli government was attempting to change the status quo on the Temple Mount.
“Keep the settlers and the extremists away from Al-Aqsa and our holy places,” Abbas stated.
“We will not allow our holy places to be contaminated. Keep them away from us and we will stay away from them, but if they enter Al-Aqsa, we will protect Al-Aqsa and the church and the entire country,” he added. .
Abbas defended the violent riots perpetrated by Muslim “heroes” at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, saying that they “have a right to defend themselves and the holy places.”
He further stated that no Muslim or Christian would ever recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. “The Muslim and Christian worlds will never accept Israel’s claims that Jerusalem belongs to them. The Jerusalem that was occupied in 1967 belongs to us,” Abbas declared.
The Temple Mount is one of the most hotly contested religious sites in the world. The holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Israel, Jews are forbidden from praying on the Mount. Israel captured the Temple Mount in 1967 from Jordan but allowed the Muslim Waqf to remain in control of the area.
Over the last several weeks, Israeli security officials have had to chase rioters fleeing into the Al-Aqsa Mosque itself. Stone throwing and Molotov cocktail attacks have become commonplace on the Temple Mount.
While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeated several times that he does not intend to change the status quo on the Temple Mount, Abbas and fellow Palestinian leaders continue to incite violence against Israel.
“Israel’s leaders are making a big mistake if they think they can turn back history, to impose a reality, and to divide the Al-Aqsa Mosque as they divided the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron,” Abbas stated, referring to the Cave of the Patriarchs which has both Jewish and Muslim prayer.
Abbas promised that he would present a resolution to the UN Security Council by the end of this month to force Israel to withdraw from parts of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria by November 2016. He said that “no pressure” would deter him.
In a response to Abbas’s claims, Netanyahu accused the Palestinian president of spreading “lies” about Israel and for fueling “wild incitement” and violence among Israeli Arabs and Palestinians.
“Today, Abu Mazen [Abbas] has again proven that he is irresponsible,” Netanyahu said at a press conference. “Instead of calming the situation he is inflaming it. Instead of speaking the truth, he is disseminating lies to the effect that we intend, or are operating in some way, to change the status of the holy places – this is a gross lie.”
The prime minister announced new measures that will be taken by Israel to stem the wave of violence that has spread from East Jerusalem across the country.
“We are in the midst of a campaign of incitement and terrorist directed against the State of Israel and its citizens,” Netanyahu said. “This campaign has continued since the foundation of the state and even before then. We have defeated terrorism until today and we will defeat it this time as well.”
Among the new directives issued by the prime minister, increased numbers of security forces will be deployed across the country, the demolition of terrorists’ homes will resume, and harsher measures against rioters are to be adopted.
“We will take a firm hand against those who throw stones, Molotov cocktails, and of course fireworks,” he said. “We will outlaw organizations that are fomenting the situation in Jerusalem.”