Unholy struggles over the Temple Mount
Sheik Ra'ad Salah, speaking in Cairo yesterday, called on the Arab and Muslim world to begin every news broadcast with developments on and around the Temple Mount. At a press conference he convened in the Egyptian capital, he proposed the creation of a charity that would raise money "to save Jerusalem from the Judaization attempts of the Israeli establishment."
The statements by the head of the northern branch of Israel's Islamic Movement are part of the organization's declared campaign. Salah and his ally, Jerusalem Waqf (Supreme Muslim Council) Head Sheik Ikrima Sabri, met with Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, and they hope the issue will be on the agenda of today's Arab foreign ministers' summit in Cairo.
An Islamic Movement delegation returned this weekend from Turkey, where members held talks with officials, and began preparations for a reciprocal visit to Israel.
In Jerusalem, meanwhile, a power struggle is raging over the Temple Mount among the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Israel, the northern branch of the Islamic Movement and other interested parties. One symbol of this struggle is the replacement last Thursday of the long-time head of the Islamic Waqf religious trust, Adnan Husseini, by Azzam Al-Khatib.
While the Jordanian supporters of Husseini, who is currently abroad, explained that the change of hands was routine - the result of the former head's retirement - it is obvious that the move has important political implications and is connected to the complicated relationship among the parties.
The position of Waqf head is the most important one in the web of control over Muslim assets in Jerusalem, the most significant of which are the Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Jerusalem Waqf operates under the aegis of Jordan. In its peace agreement with the Hashemite Kingdom, Israel promised to maintain Jordan's special status regarding Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem.
The Jordanians have been trying for years to block all involvement by Hamas and the Islamic Movement in Al-Aqsa matters. Their attitude to Salah and his organization is shared by the PA, which a few months ago fired Sheik Sabri as mufti of Jerusalem due to his growing closeness with Salah, replacing him with Sheik Mohammed Hussein, who also enjoys Jordanian approval.
Israeli-Jordanian cooperation over Al-Aqsa has also increased recently. For example, for nearly two years the Israel Police have prevented several Palestinian figures from entering the Temple Mount, including Waqf employees identified with Hamas. The nations also coordinate their restrictions against Salah, whose activities at Al-Aqsa have made him popular throughout the Muslim world.