Israel, Jordan Trade Barbs in Wake of Temple Mount Attack

Jordan slams Israel for barring Muslims from praying on Temple Mount after deadly attack; Jerusalem officials: Jordan should stop inflaming the situation

An Israeli border police officer stands guard outside in Jerusalem's Old City Friday, July 14, 2017.
An Israeli border police officer stands guard outside in Jerusalem's Old City Friday, July 14, 2017. Mahmoud Illean/AP

The tension between Israel and Jordan escalated on Friday in the wake of a deadly shooting attack on Temple Mount. After a spokesman for the Jordanian government accused Israel of violating the status quo by barring Muslim worshippers from praying on the Mount, senior officials in Jerusalem called on Jordan to stop inflaming the situation. 

Two Israeli police officers were killed and another was wounded in the shooting on Friday morning. The three Israeli Arab assailants were killed. Following the attack, Israel closed access to the Mount. 

The confrontation between Israel and Jordan unfolded in the afternoon when the Palestinians asked the Jordanian government to act toward reopening the Temple Mount. Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made the same request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when the latter called him to discuss the aftermath of the attack.

Shortly thereafter, the spokesman for Jordan's government released a statement calling on Israel to immediately reopen the holy site and to avoid measures that change the status quo. Jordan condemns any attack on Muslims' rights to freely worship in sites that are holy to them, the statement said, stressing Amman will continue using every diplomatic, legal and political tools in its disposal to thwart efforts to change the status quo. 

Officials close to Netanyahu responded harshly. "Instead of condemning the terror attack, Jordan chose to blast Israel, which protects the worshippers and maintains the freedom of worship at the site," they said. "Israel won't tolerate harm to the holy sites, where it maintains the status quo. All the sides, including Jordan, should maintain restraint and avoid inflaming the situation." 

In his call to Abbas earlier Friday, Netanyahu asked the Palestinian president to calm the situation following the attack and to prevent incitement. This was the first conversation the two held in a year.

During the call, Abbas condemned the attack, saying that he opposes any and all kind of violence, especially in places of worship. He also asked Netanyahu to reopen the Mount to worshippers. The Palestinian president warned of the ramifications of such steps and of their possible exploitation by various parties to change the status quo at the site.

Netanyahu told Abbas that no change has been made, or will be made, to the quo at the Temple Mount. He added that Israel will do everything necessary to ensure security at the site.

Following the talk, Netanyahu held a meeting with defense officials, during which they decided that the Temple Mount would be gradually be re-opened to both worshipers and visitors, pending a situation assessment that will be held on Sunday.