Israel’s Foreign Ministry blasted Arab rioters who have been attacking people on the Temple Mount over the past several weeks, pointing out “it is the rioters themselves who are defiling the Al Aqsa Mosque by transforming it into a base for attacks. They use the mosque’s furniture as barricades and launch fireworks from inside its premises.” The video clip below shows examples of Muslim Arab violence on the Temple Mount over the past several months. (Photo credit: Israel Police Spokesperson’s Unit)
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where both the First and Second Temples in Judaism were built, remains the holiest site in Judaism.
Known in Hebrew as “Har HaBayit,” the site is called “Haram al-Sharif” in Arabic (the Noble Sanctuary) by Muslims, and now contains the ‘Dome of the Rock’ as well as the Al Aqsa Mosque,’ which is considered to be the third holiest site in Islam.
The Al Aqsa Mosque is situated at the southern end of the Temple Mount plaza (esplanade), and covers only a relatively small part of its surface. Moreover, there is evidence that places the historical Jewish Temples on a different part of the Temple Mount than that which is occupied by the mosque.
When Jerusalem was reunited in 1967, Israeli officials decided to allow the Islamic Waqf Authority to continue to administer the site, in cooperation with the Jordanian monarchy. Israel also chose to uphold the existing status quo, according to which non-Muslims can visit the Temple Mount at fixed times, but are not permitted to conduct any prayers. Moreover, non-Muslims who visit the Temple Mount cannot enter the Al Aqsa Mosque itself, and are limited to visiting other parts of the site, mainly the large open spaces.
“It is very important to note that the Government of Israel is committed to maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount and will oppose all proposals to change it,” emphasized the Foreign Ministry in its statement released this week. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu emphasized a similar stance on Sunday prior to the start of the weekly government cabinet meeting.
“In the past few months, Palestinian radicals have been trying to breach the status quo by preventing Christians and Jews from visiting the Temple Mount,” the Foreign Ministry said.
“Palestinian rioters – incited by Hamas and the radical branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel – have attacked visitors as well as police with stones and fireworks, using the Al Aqsa Mosque as their base of operations. The Israeli authorities have sought to contain these attempts by Islamist extremists to escalate the situation on the Temple Mount.
“The ridiculous accusations that Israel plans to harm the Al Aqsa Mosque are utterly baseless. The fact that they are made not only by Islamist extremists but also by the mainstream Palestinian leadership is alarming and dangerous.
“It is the Palestinian rioters themselves who are defiling the Al Aqsa Mosque by transforming it into a base for attacks. They use the mosque’s furniture as barricades and launch fireworks from inside its premises, where carpets and wooden beams could easily catch fire. The rioters are also demonstrating their disrespect for the many Muslim worshippers who simply wish to pray in peace, as well as for the Islamic Waqf that manages the site.”
Israel Police, which is responsible for public order in Jerusalem, exercises extra caution — and some would say far too much care — not to hurt the sensitivities of Muslim worshipers on the Temple Mount.
Officers restrict themselves solely to entering the area specifically in cases “when riots must to be controlled.” Moreover, as a matter of policy, the police never enter the mosque itself, the Foreign Ministry points out.
Although they often find themselves in life-threatening situations, police officers who operate on the Temple Mount are only equipped with non-lethal means for self-protection.