JEDDAH: Israel’s new prime minister backtracked on Monday after claiming that Jews were entitled to “freedom of worship” at Al-Haram Al-Sharif in Jerusalem, the third-holiest site in Islam.
In fact, the site is administered by Jordan through the Islamic Waqf, and Jews may visit but not pray. Naftali Bennett’s office made it clear on Monday that he now accepted the status quo had not changed.
There was outrage among Palestinians on Sunday when more than 1,600 Jewish extremists paraded through the site, and Israeli security forces fired rubber bullets and tear-gas grenades at Muslim worshippers in Al-Aqsa Mosque to clear their path.
The Jewish extremists were marking Tisha B’Av, a day of mourning and repentance to commemorate the destruction of two temples more than 2,000 years ago. Jews believe the hilltop compound is where the temples once stood, and refer to it as the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.
Under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jewish extremists frequently breached the compound under police protection and provoked clashes with Muslim worshippers.
Political analyst and Arab News columnist Osama Al-Sharif said: “Even though Bennett has backed down for now the reality is that Israel will continue to disregard the status quo agreement and will allow Jewish groups to storm the site.
“At one point there will be a catastrophic incident that will result in another intifada or even a regional war. The world needs to put limits to Israeli violations before such a catastrophe occurs.”