RAMALLAH: Saudi Arabia on Wednesday condemned a Ramadan incursion by dozens of militant Jewish settlers at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem.
More than 100 settlers guarded by Israeli security forces visited the mosque compound early on Wednesday and performed prayer rituals, in breach of access agreements between Israel and mosque authorities.
“Such actions undermine peace efforts and violate international principles and norms regarding respect for religious sanctities,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said.
Saudi Arabia supported all efforts aimed at ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and “reaching a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian cause that enables the Palestinian people to establish their independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem) as its capital,” the ministry said.
Sheikh Omar Al-Kiswani, director of Al-Aqsa Mosque, told Arab News that incursions by extremist Israeli elements were “a deliberate provocation of Muslims who come the mosque to pray and worship.”
The latest incursion came amid a growing rift between Israel and the US over plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for judicial reforms that critics describe as a power grab. A new law would give Netanyahu’s far-right extremist government control over the appointment of Supreme Court judges and the power to overrule the court’s rulings.
After hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in protest, Netanyahu suspended the reforms to allow for compromise talks with the opposition — but US President Joe Biden has urged him to abandon the legislation completely.
“They cannot continue down this road, and I’ve sort of made that clear,” Biden said. “Hopefully the prime minister will act in a way that he will try to work out some genuine compromise, but that remains to be seen. I hope they walk away from it.”
Biden also said he would not consider inviting the Israeli leader to the White House, at least “not in the near term.”
Netanyahu’s response to the criticism was defiant. “Israel is a sovereign country which makes its decisions by the will of its people and not based on pressures from abroad,” he said.
In a further US snub, hours after Netanyahu said he expected his country to join the US Visa Waiver Program soon, the State Department said on Wednesday that Israel had not met eligibility requirementsbecause it did not allow free passage for Palestinian-Americans at its airports and into the occupied West Bank.
Israel “still has significant work to complete on a short timeline to meet all program requirements,” the department said.