The Arab world on Friday condemned Israel for closing the Temple Mount and the Al-Aqsa mosque for worship following the shooting attack on Friday morning in which two policemen were killed. Jordan made do with a very weak condemnation of the attack and also harshly criticized Israel, while Egypt and Turkey issued balanced statements and called on all parties to maintain restraint.
The Arab League said in a statement yesterday that "the Al-Aqsa Mosque should be opened immediately to worshipers and that any attempt to change the natural and historical status quo in the mosque should be stopped." The League warned of "the dangerous consequences of Israel's escalating move to close the Al-Aqsa mosque and prevent Friday prayers." It also strongly condemned Israel for "continuing its assaults and attacks on the Al-Aqsa Mosque" and condemned Israel for "inflaming the religious conflict and exacerbating the phenomenon of terrorism and violence in the region in order to thwart any effort and chance for peace."
In statement also expressed pride at the "steadfastness of the residents of east Jerusalem and the Palestinian people in defending the Al-Aqsa Mosque," and demanded that the international community take responsibility, implement its decisions, protect the holy sites of Islam and Christianity and provide protection for the Palestinian people.
Israel to Jordan: 'Instead of condemning the attack, you chose to attack'
In a statement issued yesterday afternoon, Jordanian government spokesman Mohammed al-Mumni said that Israel should immediately open the Al-Aqsa mosque to worshipers and not take steps that could change the historic status quo in Jerusalem and the mosque. "The Jordanian government opposes any attack against Muslims in carrying out religious rituals in their holy places freely and without any obstacles," it said.
Al-Muamni condemned the escalation in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and demanded an immediate and comprehensive investigation into the incident. He clarified that "Jordan's principled position is condemnation of violence." It further claimed that the Jordanian government conducted intensive contacts to exert pressure to open the Al-Aqsa mosque immediately: "Jordan has exploited and exploited all the diplomatic, legal and diplomatic tools to block any attempt to change the legal and historical status quo in Jerusalem."
Political sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Jordan's announcement yesterday, saying that "instead of condemning the attack, Jordan has chosen to attack Israel. All the parties involved, including Jordan, should maintain restraint and refrain from fanning the flames." They also said that Israel "protects the worshipers and preserves freedom of worship in the area, and Israel will not tolerate attacks on the holy places, and it maintains the status quo in them."
Egypt and Turkey renounce terrorist act
Taking a different tone than the Arab League, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry expressed "great sorrow over the violent events in the Temple Mount compound," warning of "the dangerous consequences of these events and of moves that could sabotage regional and international efforts to encourage Israel and the Palestinians to renew negotiations and revive the peace process." A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry asked all parties to maintain restraint and not to be dragged into a "vicious cycle" of violence. Egypt also asked the parties not to take steps that would affect the freedom of religious worship at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in a manner that would lead to unrest.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement in a similar vein: "We express our regret over the incident and the loss of human life this morning at the Temple Mount. We would like to remind that it is a legal and humanitarian duty to respect the sanctity and historical status of religious sites in East Jerusalem, The Temple Mount must remain open to worship and the closure of the compound decided upon by Israel should be immediately canceled, and quiet must be restored as soon as possible."
During a security meeting on Friday afternoon, Netanyahu declared that the Temple Mount will not be reopened until Sunday. The Prime Minister's Office stated that Netanyahu instructed the Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who also attended the meeting, to significantly strengthen the security arrangements at the Temple Mount, and received an update on the investigation concerning the Temple Mount area incident.
Abbas criticizes attack, while one of his associates criticizes Israel
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called Netanyahu to condemn the attack, but also called for the reopening of the Temple Mount, as he expressed his opposition to acts of violence on either side. Abbas warned of the implications of closing the Temple Mount to worshippers, or of exploiting it to change the religious and historical status quo. Netanyahu reportedly assured him there would be no permanent change in the current situation.
The PMO stated that "Netanyahu made it clear that Israel will take all necessary actions to ensure security on the Temple Mount, without any change in the status quo." Palestinian sources defined the conversation as good and matter-of-fact, noting that the conversation was relatively long.
However, a close associate of Abbas's and his religious advisor, Mahmoud al-Habash, condemned closing the Temple Mount gates during a Friday sermon in the Muqata. "This is a serious step that acts as a crime and an aggression against religion, which will drag the region into a merciless religious war in which everyone will lose," said al-Habash.
"The closure of the Al-Aqsa Mosque for the first time since 1969 will increase the existing tension, since Muslims will never accept the fact that they are prevented from praying in their mosque freely," he added. "Al-Aqsa Mosque is our mosque, our right, part of our faith and religion. The occupation remains the main cause of instability in the Middle East and the world. Israeli bullying in the alleys and holy squares of Jerusalem will only lead to an increase in tension and violence. "