AMMAN: A major clash is expected between Israel and the Jordanian-run Islamic Waqf in Jerusalem over who has the right to repair cracks in the Haram Al- Sharif’s western wall.
Wasfi Kilani, a senior member of the newly established Jordanian Al-Aqsa crisis management unit, denied Israeli reports that the problems are the result of neglect by the Islamic Waqf.
Kilani told Arab News that Israel is denying the Islamic Waqf in Jerusalem the right to fix about 18 locations that include cracks in the wall due to water leakage and other natural causes.
On Monday, a 100-kg rock fell from the western wall, almost striking a Jewish worshipper.
“We have plenty of well-qualified engineers who are able to address all the physical problems in the area,” Kilani said.
The Haram Al-Sharif is a UNESCO-protected World Heritage Site. Jordan is the recognized custodian of the site, which is administered by the Jordanian Waqf.
Jordan’s budget for the Islamic Waqf in Jerusalem has risen from 3.5 million Jordan dinars ($5 million) annually to 15 million dinars, Kilani said.
The number of engineers, guards, tourism experts and museum workers on Jordanian government payroll has grown to 1,000.
Jordanian workers, including retired staff, are given a special “sumud bonus” of up to 400 percent, Kilani said.
The crisis unit is headed by Jordanian Minister of Waqf Abdel Naser Abu Basel; head of the Jerusalem Waqf department Azzam Khatib; and Kilani, executive director of the Hashemite fund for the restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
A Jordanian government spokeswoman, Jumana Ghunaimat, said on Thursday that Jordan objected to Israel taking the huge stone away. The boulder should be properly replaced and cemented in its former position, she said. “This is the responsibility of the Islamic Waqf, which is authorized to all issues related to Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif.”
A video showing the boulder’s fall has been distributed on social media.
Al-Buraq wall, which Israel calls the western wall, has been the source of controversy for years.
In March 2013, Jordan and Palestine signed an agreement giving Jordan responsibility for defending and administrating holy sites in Jerusalem.
The Israeli daily Haaretz quoted archaeologists saying that the “western wall may shed stones, but will stand for thousands of years.”
Ofer Zalzberg, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group, said that the fundamental issue was who had authority to conduct repairs.
“In the past, Israel agreed to Jordan and Egypt conducting repairs on the southern and eastern walls of the compound, but Israelis are much more attentive to the western wall, and it is hard for me to see Israel agreeing to a Jordanian role there.
“This is not a gap that will be easily bridged,” he said.