Saudi Arabia’s new “non-resident” envoy to the Palestinian Authority, Ambassador Nayef al-Sudairi, canceled his planned visit Wednesday to the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, Haaretz reports.
Sudairi, who also serves as the Saudi Ambassador to Jordan, where he is based, met this week with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and officials from the Palestine Liberation Organization, which Abbas also oversees.
The unannounced visit had not been coordinated in advance with the Jordanian Islamic Waqf that administers the mosque together with the Palestinian Authority and supervises visits by officials and their delegations.
The decision came in response to objections from Palestinian Authority residents expressed on social media prior to the visit.
A source in the PA capital of Ramallah quoted by Haaretz said Sudairi canceled the visit after recognizing the “sensitivity of the matter” and the “criticism and implications” surrounding the planned visit.
The Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosques both sit within the Temple Mount compound, site of the fallen First and Second Temples in Jerusalem and one of the holiest places in the Jewish faith. Also called Haram al-Sharif, it is also the third holiest site in Islam and has been the site of numerous clashes, with Muslim worshipers stockpiling rocks and explosives in the mosque for use in attacks on visiting Jewish pilgrims and the Israeli police who protect them.
Saudi Arabia and Israel are negotiating towards normalization in talks brokered by the United States.
The Palestinian Authority has expressed deep concern over the talks, determined to torpedo any process that does not result in realization of its demands for half of Jerusalem – Israel’s capital city – to establish a capital for its own independent, sovereign state.