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Calm restored on Temple Mount following more rioting

What happened: Earlier this morning, at the end of the Fajr prayer, hundreds of young men began rioting on the Temple Mount area, included throwing stones and fireworks in the direction of the Western Wall. The Israel Police entered the area and used non-lethal means to disperse the crowd.

  • On Wednesday, United Arab List leader MK Mansour Abbas met with King Abdullah II of Jordan. The pair discussed the tensions on the Temple Mount and “ways to defend Jerusalem and the Islamic and Christian holy sites,” according to Abbas’s office.
  • The Jordanian Royal Court said: “Jordan has intensified its coordination with all regional and international partners to stop the escalation following the attacks on the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque. The repression of worshipers in Jerusalem, restricting the movement of Christians and impacting their religious celebrations are an unacceptable matter.”
  • Abbas told Israeli media that “King Abdullah does not want escalation and he is looking for solutions that will allow him to remain calm, give the mosque the respect it deserves and maintain Jordanian sponsorship there. We need to see what can be done so that what happened this year does not happen again next year”.
  • Yesterday, Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas also visited Amman and met with King Abdullah.
  • Prior to that meeting, Abbas hosted Ronen Bar, the head of the Shin Bet security service, in Ramallah.
  • Up to 200,000 Muslim worshippers took part in mass prayers on the Temple Mount Wednesday evening. Buses transporting the thousands of worshippers into Jerusalem, with festivities passing without incident.

Context: As enshrined in the 1994 Israel – Jordanian peace treaty, the King of Jordan plays an important role as the custodian of Jerusalem’s Muslim and Christian holy sites.

  • The current status quo on the Temple Mount, which is administered by Jordan’s Waqf, allows Jews to visit at certain times but not to pray, while Muslims are allowed greater access and prayer.
  • According to media reports this week, Israel and Jordan will convene the joint Jerusalem Affairs Committee after Ramadan to discuss increased coordination at the site and try to agree on measures that will help reduce tensions and prevent violent incidents occurring again.
  • Jordan is expected to request a significant increase in the number of unarmed Waqf guards at the al-Aqsa Mosque to allow it to prevent riots in the area and eliminate the need for the Israel Police to enter. According to Mansour Abbas, Israel has approved an increase of only 15 guards, but the Jordanians are asking for an extra 200.
  • Despite continuous rioting this month on the Temple Mount by Palestinian youths, there have been rare instances of serious injuries due to the restraint of the Israel Police to wait until prayer finishes before entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as the use of non-lethal means to disperse the violent crowds.
  • The US sent diplomats Yael Lampert and Hadi Amar to Amman, Jerusalem and Ramallah this week in an attempt to coordinate between the three leaderships. According to US sources, one of the issues that has created anger among the Jordanians and Palestinians is statements from Israeli officials who spoke of “freedom of worship” on the Temple Mount. This created in Ramallah and Amman the feeling that Israel believes that Jews can pray on the Temple Mount, which is a violation of the status quo.
  • Last week Foreign Minister Yair Lapid reaffirmed Israel’s commitment to uphold the status quo on the Temple Mount and continue to prevent non-Muslims from praying there.
  • In the 10 months of the Bennett-Lapid government, all the country’s top leaders have visited Jordan in an effort to rebuild ties with the King, which reached a nadir under Netanyahu.
  • This year, the Israeli police has allowed buses to freely enter Jerusalem for prayer times, as opposed to last year when buses were prevented from entering the city, which in hindsight contributed to the friction that led to escalation with Hamas in Gaza.
  • The Israel Antiques Authority is considering removing archaeological artifacts from the Temple Mount that have been uprooted by rioters this month. Some of the stone relics were thrown by Muslim rioters at the site. Some were used to prevent Jewish visitors from passing.
  • Last week, Jordan’s Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh’s spoke out harshly against Israel saying, “I salute every Palestinian and every official in the Waqf who hurls stones at the Zionists”.

Looking forward: Next week will mark both Eid al-Fitr and Israel’s Independence Day, potential flashpoints for clashes.

  • Senior Israeli governments officials will continue to travel to Jordan and meet with the King to help to bridge gaps over future steps concerning the Temple Mount.
  • It remains unclear if the joint Jerusalem Affairs Committee will convene after Ramadan, due to conflicting reports in Israel.

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