x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Al Aqsa is a 'simmering volcano' at the centre of Israeli provocations

For the second time this month the Al Aqsa mosque in the old city of Jerusalem has been the scene of clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians defending Islam's third holiest site. Jordan' King Abdullah has warned that the problems in Jerusalem will directly destabilise not only Israel's relationship with Jordan, 'but will also create a tinderbox that will have a major flashpoint throughout the Islamic world'.

For the second time this month the Al Aqsa mosque in the old city of Jerusalem has been the scene of clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians defending Islam's third holiest site. The mosque is located at the holy site revered by Muslims as al Haram al Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) and by Jews as the Temple Mount. "Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, has called for a freeze on the Arab peace initiative with Israel in response to its police action in Al Aqsa mosque," Al Jazeera reported. "He accused Israel of wanting to 'destroy' Jerusalem's revered Al Aqsa mosque, the scene of clashes on Sunday as Israeli police battled Palestinian worshippers. " 'It is the first step towards dividing the mosque, a prelude to demolishing it and building a temple,' Meshaal said in a speech in the Syrian capital Damascus, where he is based." Omar Karmi, reporting for The National said: "Although most Jews consider it forbidden to walk on what they believe to be the site of the last main biblical temple, others want to rebuild the temple on the compound. And Sunday night, a group of rabbis and right-wing politicians called on Jews in Israel to gain access to the site and 'ascend the Temple Mount'. " 'If Jews were to increase their presence, keep coming to the Temple Mount, and if they get thrown out, come back and file a complaint, then we would gain the momentum, and I'm not talking about a few people here. I'm talking about hundreds and thousands,' Rabbi Yaakov Meidan told The Jerusalem Post. "Palestinians worry that such ideas could gain currency and put Al Aqsa mosque at risk. There have been a number of attempts in the past to destroy the mosque, most notably in 1969, when an Australian Christian attempted to set fire to the compound. According to some Christian theology, the rebuilding of the Jewish temple is necessary to fulfil biblical prophesies of the end of days." Temple Institute - a Jerusalem-based organisation dedicated to researching and, eventually, rebuilding the Temple on the Mount - was linked to Sunday's unrest in the capital, as Palestinians heard word of the rabbis' intention to call for Jews to visit the holy site. The Jerusalem Post reported: "Temple Institute director Yehuda Glick, who welcomed the series of speakers at the event, began by invoking the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, telling the crowd, 'Before he was murdered, [Rabin] said that the greatest danger facing democracy in Israel was the surrender to violence. " 'Yet, recent events show an alarming phenomenon of police actually caving in to Palestinian violence on the Temple Mount.' "Thus was the tone of the conference, in which Glick and others spoke out against 'discrimination' against religious Jews who wish to visit the site. " 'When a visibly Jewish person wants to go onto the Mount, they are made to wait, sometimes as long as an hour, while police subject them to humiliating security checks and searches,' Yosef Rabin, who is affiliated with an organisation called The Movement for the Establishment of the Temple, told The Jerusalem Post." The National noted: "Jerusalem, with sites sacred to three monotheistic faiths, has a special significance to Jordan. Under the peace treaty [with Israel], the country remains the official custodian of the holy sites in the eastern part of occupied Jerusalem. Without the holy city, Jordan believes that there cannot be a Palestinian state. "King Abdullah recently warned that the problems in Jerusalem will directly destabilise not only Israel's relationship with Jordan, 'but will also create a tinderbox that will have a major flashpoint throughout the Islamic world'. "Israel's measures to Judaise Jerusalem by demolishing and evacuating Palestinian homes and expanding settlements are also serious concern for Jordan." On Monday, Syria accused Israel of trying to destroy the Al Aqsa mosque. Syria "believes the Israeli security forces' invasion of Al Aqsa was part of Israel's scheme to Judaize Jerusalem and destroy the mosque," a statement by the Syrian Foreign Ministry said. The Times said: "The latest violence outside the Al Aqsa mosque... has repercussions that go far beyond Israeli-Palestinian relations. From Cairo to Jakarta, Muslims will be enraged by the sight of Israeli security forces imposing authority at Islam's third-holiest site. "The 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference has warned that any provocative act by Israel 'would bear grave consequences'. Violence at the site has increased in the past. "It was clashes outside the Al Aqsa mosque that sparked the second intifada - a widespread violent uprising by Palestinians. The origins of that event are traced to Ariel Sharon's provocative September 2000 visit to the compound. Nine years later, and another right-wing Israeli Government is in power. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister, is said to be unfazed by the violence, or the headlines that it makes across the Arab world. "He is emboldened by increasing support among Israeli voters, despite the country's plummeting diplomatic relations with its neighbours. A poll at the weekend showed that if elections were held today, Mr Netanyahu's Likud party would grow to become the largest party in the parliament." In an editorial, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said: "the Temple Mount is behaving like an active, simmering volcano; the timing of its next major eruption is impossible to gauge. The government's attitude, by which it views these events as just another competitive front between Israel and the Palestinians, is likely to foment a violent outburst which will ignite the entire Middle East. "The trepidation of Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims from what is referred to as 'the Judaization of Jerusalem,' or the Jewish takeover of the Temple Mount, cannot be overstated. Archaeological digs; the construction of Jewish neighbourhoods and Jewish housing in and around the Old City; and the purchase of property and condemning of public parks with the intention of using the land to build Jewish residential neighbourhoods are all apparently part of a deliberate policy being pursued by the government of Israel. Yet, while the battle against the building and inhabiting of apartments in East Jerusalem has been limited to a diplomatic tug-of-war between Israel and the American administration, the battle over the Temple Mount is being waged on the street. "This is a struggle in which Israeli Muslims stand alongside their coreligionists throughout the world, all of whom view themselves as custodians of one of Islam's holiest sites. Political and diplomatic disagreements between the Palestinians and the Arab world go by the wayside in the face of the religious struggle at hand."

pwoodward@thenational.ae