Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Tuesday that he had rejected a Jordanian request to increase staffing for the Waqf, the Muslim religious trust that acts as the custodian of the Temple Mount, by 50.
Jordan made the request a month ago, and since then, Bennett said, "six Waqf guards who support Hamas have been expelled from the Temple Mount." Bennett added that 12 new staffers had been added, without increasing the number of available positions.
The prime minister's remarks come one day after Channel 11 news reported that Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev had agreed to Jordanian demands regarding increasing the number of Waqf personnel on the Temple Mount.
"There have been no changes or new developments at the Temple Mount," the Prime Minister's Office said. "All decisions regarding the Temple Mount are made by the government of Israel and are based on considerations of sovereignty, freedom of religion and security – not under pressure from foreign or political actors."
A Waqf official said in an interview that Jordan had demanded an addition of 70 staffers at the Temple Mount before the start of the holy month of Ramadan. The official said that Israel had agreed to 15 new staffers. He added that negotiations between the two countries had been conducted over two years, and remained deadlocked over an Israeli demand that Jordan provide the names of all new Waqf personnel and allow the Shin Bet security service to conduct background checks and ascertain whether staffers had ever been involved in any security incident.
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The source added that he did not know whether Jordan had provided the names of the recently hired staffers, and that he had no knowledge of Bennett's claim regarding the six guards who were allegedly dismissed over affiliation with Hamas.
Some 200 Waqf employees work at the Temple Mount. In recent years, many of them have been barred from the Temple Mount by Israel, after they were accused of interfering with visits by Jews to the holy site.