The Jordanian interior minister summoned Israel’s ambassador Wednesday to protest what he said was Israel’s responsibility for riots on the Temple Mount on Tuesday.
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The minister, Hussein al-Majali, filling in for Jordan’s foreign minister, summoned Ambassador Daniel Nevo following a decision by the Jordanian parliament earlier Wednesday. In that decision, the parliament called on the Jordanian government to send Nevo back to Israel and to recall its ambassador to Tel Aviv.
The riots ensued Tuesday after the police allowed some 200 Jews to enter the Temple Mount in honor of Jerusalem Day. At the same time, security forces prevented a few dozen Muslims, whom police said were members of extremist groups, from entering the Mount.
Shortly thereafter, the Palestinian media reported that “extremist settlers” had taken over the Al Aqsa Mosque and that the police were not allowing Muslims on the Mount.
Clashes then broke out between police, Jews and Muslims, with Palestinians throwing stones and chairs at police. A few hours later, the police summoned the Jerusalem mufti, Mohammed Hussein, for questioning, following information that he had been involved in the rioting. The police issued a warning to Hussein and then sent him home. However, Palestinian and Jordanian media outlets reported that the mufti had been arrested and had spent the night at a police station.
“Jerusalem and the Al Aqsa Mosque are a red line for Jordan in light of the patronage the Hashemite Kingdom extends to places in the city holy to Muslims and to Christians,” Majali told Nevo, according to Majali’s office. “Continued organized attacks by the settlers on the holy places in Jerusalem indicates the intention to instigate violence, to harm stability in the entire region and to sabotage efforts to renew the peace process,” his bureau’s statement said.
Sources in Israel’s Foreign Ministry said the conversation between Majali and Nevo had been “businesslike” but “very pointed.” The sources said the Jordanian minister asked Nevo to convey to Jerusalem that the Jordanian government viewed very harshly both the “rioting of Jewish extremists on the Temple Mount” as well as the detaining of the mufti for questioning.
After having been briefed on the matter, President Shimon Peres inserted remarks into his speech for Jerusalem Day meant to convey a calming message the Jordanians. “Jerusalem is dear to us. Peace with Jordan is dear to us. I want to say loud and clear that we will respect all the holy places of all religions and will do everything possible to protect them as we have agreed…The peace we have attained is peace for all worshippers, Jewish, Muslim and Christian,” Peres said.
Meanwhile, the Knesset Interior Committee held a meeting Wednesday on the subject of Jewish worship on the Temple Mount. A representative of the Foreign Ministry at the meeting, deputy director of the Jordanian Department, Frieda Yovel, warned that any change in the status quo of the Temple Mount would lead to harsh international criticism of Israel, “as happened after Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount in 2000 or the opening of the Western Wall Tunnel.”