Abdullah heads to US as Bennett upholds Jewish rights on Temple Mount

The meeting comes a day after Jordan sent an official complaint to Israel for allowing Jews onto the Temple Mount.

King Abdullah of Jordan was set to meet with US President Joe Biden on Monday, the day after his government complained about Israel allowing Jews onto the Temple Mount and minor clashes between Muslims and Israeli police at the holy site.

The meeting would be Biden’s first with an Arab leader, which the White House said last week “will highlight the enduring and strategic partnership between the United States and Jordan, a key security partner and ally of the United States.” The White House also emphasized “Jordan’s leadership role in promoting peace and stability in the region.”

The meeting comes a day after Jordan sent an official complaint to Israel for allowing Jews onto the Temple Mount, of which Abdullah’s Hashemite family is the custodian.

Jordan’s complaint comes on the heels of a rapprochement with Israel this month, including meetings between King Abdullah and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, and between Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi. Israel agreed to sell Jordan double the amount of water stipulated in the peace treaty between the countries and to allow Amman to increase its exports to the Palestinian Authority.

On Sunday, Bennett affirmed Jewish and Muslim freedom of worship on the Temple Mount, ordering the police to continue allowing Jews to ascend Judaism’s holiest site on Tisha Be’Av even as Muslims clashed with police at the holy site.

The Temple Mount is Judaism’s holiest site, where the two Holy Temples were erected, and where al-Aqsa Mosque currently stands. Tisha Be’Av, the Jewish fast day observed on Sunday, marks the anniversary of the temples’ destruction in 586 BCE and 70 CE.

Bennett “instructed to allow organized and safe ascendance of Jews to the Mount, while keeping order at the site,” the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Early in the morning, police entered the Temple Mount, without entering al-Aqsa Mosque, and cleared out rioters, stopping them from throwing rocks. The Red Crescent reported that a number of Palestinians were injured in clashes with police. The majority of the injuries were treated on-site, according to the organization.

Nearly 1,700 Jews visited the Temple Mount during the permitted hours, and no incidents were reported during the Jewish visits, which lasted until Sunday afternoon. Bennett thanked the police for handling the matter responsibly and protecting Jews’ freedom of worship.

The prime minister also emphasized that “full freedom of worship on the Temple Mount will be maintained for Muslims, as well, who are marking the Day of Arafa and Eid al-Adha this week.”

Among the Jews visiting the Temple Mount on Tisha Be’Av was rebel Yamina MK Amichai Chikli, who sang Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem. Another Yamina MK, Yom Tov Kalfon, visited the holy site as well.

Images circulating on social media showed a small group of Israeli Jews praying at the site, which is against the rules set by the Jordanian Islamic Trust, known as the Wakf, and generally enforced by Israeli police.

Jordan sent an official letter of protest against Israeli “violations” on the Temple Mount, including “storming of the holy compound by extremist settlers under Israeli police protection,” Jordanian news agency Petra reported.

Palestinian and other Arab media reports often characterize any Jews visiting the Temple Mount as settlers, and their actions as “storming,” even when labeling videos of people walking in an orderly fashion.

Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Daifallah al-Fayez said: “The Israeli actions against the mosque are rejected and condemned, and represent a violation of the historical and legal status quo, international law, and Israel’s obligations as an occupying power in East Jerusalem.”

Fayez said the entire Temple Mount compound “is a place of worship purely for Muslims.”

Jordan occupied half of Jerusalem in 1948-1967 and did not allow Jews into its Old City to pray at any holy sites, including the Western Wall and Temple Mount.

The Islamist Ra’am (United Arab List) Party said: “Muslims have an exclusive right to al-Aqsa Mosque and no one else has any right over it.”

Ra’am warned worshippers in a statement on Sunday against a “large number of settlers who have been storming and violating the sanctity of the blessed Aqsa Mosque since the morning hours.”

“This could cause violent events and ignite the situation in Jerusalem and the entire region in [a] way that could lead to a devastating religious war, especially when officials and MKs are allowed to storm al-Aqsa, hold prayers, hold religious ceremonies and read the national anthem Hatikva, the party stated.

Mahmoud al-Habash, religious affairs adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who also serves as the Supreme Sharia judge in the PA, accused Israel of working to divide the holy site in time and space between Muslim and Jewish worshipers.

“These attempts will not succeed,” Habash said. “Our people will not accept any attempt to change the historical status of the holy site. The occupation state has no religious, historical or legal right to any inch of occupied Jerusalem and blessed al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Habash said that they are determined to defend the Aqsa Mosque compound, adding: “The Palestinian bond in Jerusalem and al-Aqsa will continue and escalate because we are exercising our legitimate right to protect our land and our holy sites and to defend ourselves.”

He called on the international community and the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Israel for its “war crimes against the city of Jerusalem, in particular the ongoing aggression against al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Habash warned of the consequences of Israel’s “daily violations,” which he said could ignite a religious war.

PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh also accused settlers of “storming” al-Aqsa and said that this is a serious violation of the holy site status quo and a provocation.

Ayala Ben-Gvir, wife of far-right Otzma Yehudit MK Itamar Ben-Gvir, went to pray at the Temple Mount with hundreds of other Jews, saying that “it is important not only to sit and cry but to show up and go on the Temple Mount.”

“We are not in exile; we must think how to improve and act for sovereignty and Jewish visits to this holy place,” she said. “Whoever controls the Temple Mount controls the Land of Israel in its entirety, and this is how we will work toward control of this holy and important site.”

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