Jordan on Sunday threw out an Israeli court’s dramatic ruling in favor of three Jewish teenagers who bowed down and recited the “Shema Yisrael” prayer on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, warning it violated international law.
“The decision allows extremists to hold ceremonies at the Al-Aqsa compound,” the Jordanian foreign ministry said in a statement.
By praying at the site, the teenagers violated a longstanding but informal agreement that dictates that Jews can visit the site but not pray there.
“The judgment is legally null and void under international law, which does not recognize the authority of the Israeli judicial system in the 1967 Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem,” it said, adding that the judgment was “a gross violation of the International law sets forth decisions relating to Jerusalem, including resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council, all of which clarify that the status quo must be maintained in the holy city.”
The office of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the decision a “grave violation of the historic status quo” and called on Washington to “urgently intervene to stop Israeli attacks on our people and their sanctuaries.”
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In comments that also referred to the upcoming Israeli “flag march” through the Old City to mark Jerusalem Day, Abbas’ office called on “our people to challenge and counter these attacks.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of Palestinian leaders in the West Bank city of Ramallah August 18, 2020. (Flash90)
The Hamas terror group said the verdict “plays with fire while crossing all red lines and represents a dangerous escalation for which the leaders of the occupation must face the consequences.”
Earlier, the prime minister’s office issued a statement clarifying that no changes were planned to the status quo on the mountain where Al-Aqsa Mosque is located
“There is no change to the status quo of the Temple Mount, nor is any change planned,” the statement said. “The Magistrate Court’s decision focuses solely on the issue of the conduct of the minors brought before it and does not constitute a broader provision relating to freedom of religion on the Temple Mount. In relation to the specific criminal case at issue, the Government has been advised that the state will appeal to the district court.”
A member of the Israeli security forces stands guard as a group of Jews enter the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during the annual Tisha B’Av fast July 18, 2021. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
In his Sunday verdict, Judge Zion Saharay said he didn’t think bowing and saying a prayer was enough to restrict religious freedom.
Saharay quoted Police Chief Kobi Shabtai in comments last May that officials would ensure freedom of religion for “all residents of the country and territories” at the hotspot’s holy site.
But according to a Channel 12 report, police officials denied this and accused the judge of distorting statements made by Shabtai.
“The court ruling is based on statements by the police commissioner when in fact he was not talking about the Temple Mount,” an unnamed police officer was quoted as saying.
“When the commissioner speaks about religious freedom, he is not referring to the Temple Mount, where the status quo established over the years by government policies and Supreme Court rulings is maintained,” the police official added. “This is a case of a distorted interpretation of what he said.”
Prosecutors said they would appeal Saharay’s verdict.
The Temple Mount, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, is the holiest site for Jews and the site of the third holiest shrine in Islam. It is the emotional epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and tensions there helped ignite the 11-day Gaza War in May.
Jordan has long claimed that its treaties with Israel grant it guardianship of Jerusalem’s Christian and Muslim holy sites; While Israel has never accepted this claim, it does grant day-to-day administration of the Temple Mount to the Jordan-funded Waqf.
The agreement whereby Jews can visit the mountain but not pray there has faltered in recent years as groups of Jews, including diehard religious nationalists, have regularly visited and prayed at the site. However, the Israeli government says it is determined to maintain the status quo, despite reports that it is turning a blind eye to Jews who want to pray at the site.
During the coincidence of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish holiday of Passover last month, the site saw almost daily clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian rioters.
Heightened tensions in the capital prompted a sharp response from Jordan at the time, whose prime minister used unusually hostile language to condemn “Zionist sympathizers” and what he called Israel’s “occupational government.” Jordan’s King Abdullah has criticized the Jewish state for allowing Jewish pilgrims to enter the site and called on the Israeli government to respect “the historical and legal status quo” there.
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