Top Israeli Minister Calls for Status Quo Change at Jerusalem's Temple Mount, Sparking Jordan's Ire

Jordan warns of 'dangerous repercussions' after Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan says Jews should be allowed to pray at holy site following violent clashes this week

Israeli police clashes with Palestinian worshippers on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, August 11, 2019.
Mahmoud Illean,AP

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said on Tuesday that he believes the status quo at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount ought to be changed to allow Jewish worshipers to pray at the site, following violent clashes that took place at the compound earlier this week.

“I think that there is an injustice in the status quo there that has been in place since 1967, and we need to act to change it so that Jews in the future can pray on the Temple Mount – which is the holiest place for the Jewish people and the third most important religious spot in Islam.”

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Speaking on 90FM radio, Erdan added that “we should operate to get to a point when Jews can also pray there. But we need to achieve it through political agreements, and not by force.”

Violent clashes were sparked between Israeli security forces and Palestinian worshipers on Sunday. The altercations began when forces confronted Muslim worshipers commemorating the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. The holiday, which took place on Sunday, coincided with the annual Jewish day of fast of Tisha B'Av. The violence escalated after the Israel Police had decided in a rare move to allow Jews to enter the Tempe Mount to mark Tisha B'Av.

The site has long been a flashpoint between Jews, who marked the destruction of the First and Second Temple and consider Temple Mount the holiest site in Judaism, and Muslims who consider the site the third holiest after Mecca and Medina. 

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan arrives to the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, on June 24, 2019.
Noam Rivkin Fenton

The Temple Mount status quo sometimes shifts, but in practice the complex has been closed over the past few years during Eid al-Adha and all other Muslim holidays.  

However, Temple Mount activists and right-wing politicians have put pressure on the police in recent years, making it challenging for them to close the Mount on Jerusalem Day and Tisha B'Av.

This year the police opened the premises to Jews on Jerusalem Day, which resulted in a mass demonstration and clashes between Jews and Palestinians on the Mount.  

Jordan warns against 'dangerous repercussions'

Jordan, whose Waqf body is the custodian of the holy site, was quick to denounce Erdan's comments. A spokesman for the Jordanian Foreign Ministry released a statement in which he wrote: "The Kingdom of Jordan rejects declarations of this kind and warns against any move that could change the situation and the historic, legal status quo."

In his statement, the Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman also warned against "the dangerous repercussions of such a change," noting that Israel ought to uphold its commitment to respect the current situation on the Temple Mount.

The Jordanian Foreign Ministry also demanded that Israel halt immediately any attempt to change the status of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and added that an official letter protesting the remarks was sent to Israel through official diplomatic channels.

This would be the second such letter Jordan sends Israel this week, after it published earlier this week a denouncement of the clashes at the Temple Mount.

Jordan's Foreign Ministry condemned what it described as Sunday's "blunt Israeli violations on the Temple Mount as Palestinians mark the first day of Eid al-Adha."

"Jordan harshly rejects Israel's conduct, which only inflames rage and frustration and its provocations of [Muslim] worshipers on the first day of the Feast of the Sacrifice," a spokesperson for the ministry said.

He added that the State of Israel bears full responsibility for the future ramifications of Sunday's Temple Mount clashes and called on the international community "to immediately intervene to stop this conduct."

Clashes erupted on Sunday around 9:30 A.M. after worshipers finished their prayers. Police forces reportedly fired stun grenades and tear gas canisters after they claimed the worshipers began hurling objects at officers and yelling "nationalistic remarks."

The Palestinian Red Crescent said 61 Palestinians were wounded in the clashes, with 15 evacuated to nearby hospitals. Police reported that four officers lightly wounded in the clashes. Seven people were arrested, the Israeli police said. 

According to Erdan, 1,700 Jews were allowed to enter the compound.