Jordan Lawmakers Vote to Expel Israeli Ambassador Over Temple Mount Debate

Egyptian foreign minister warns that Temple Mount activity by 'Jewish extremists' could result in an eruption of violence in the region.

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Jordan's parliament voted unanimously Wednesday to expel the Israeli ambassador and recall its own envoy, after Israeli lawmakers debated whether to declare sovereignty over the Temple Mount, which is administered by Jordanians.

The vote by acclamation in Jordan's 150-seat parliament is not binding to the cabinet, which is keen to maintain diplomatic ties with Israel.

A Jordanian cabinet official who insisted on anonymity said no action regarding parliament's call is expected before the outcome of the Knesset debate.

In Cairo, meanwhile, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy warned in a statement that if Israel allowed Jewish extremists to "lead the political scene" at the site, it would result in an eruption of violence in the region.

The statement urged the Israeli government to fulfill its duty in stopping extremist MKs.

Fahmy added that East Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state, and the Old City and the al-Aqsa are integral parts of it.

The discussion initiated Tuesday by MK Moshe Feiglin of Likud asks whether Israel should wrest control of the Temple Mount from Jordan, which was given a "special" role over the area in a 1994 peace treaty with Israel.

It remains unclear whether a vote in the Knesset will take place.

Since winning his Knesset seat last year, Feiglin has waged a fierce public battle to allow Jews to pray at the contested Jerusalem holy site known as the Temple Mount to Jews and Haram al-Sharif to Muslims.

The site, which marks the spot where Islam says the prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven and Judaism says the holiest part of the two ancient temples stood, has been managed by a Muslim religious trust, the Waqf, for centuries.

Feiglin said this has meant de facto "Muslim/Jordanian sovereignty" over Judaism's holiest site and Islam's third-holiest. He also protested the practice of Muslims entering the Temple Mount freely while Jews are searched.

"At the Mughrabi Gate, the only gate through which Jews can enter as visitors, the Israel Police strip Jews down to their underwear for fear they are smuggling in an Israeli flag or a Book of Psalms," he said. "Waqf officials cling to Jewish visitors and scrutinize their lips to see if they are praying."

Under Waqf rules, Jews are not allowed to pray at the Temple Mount.

As the Knesset prepared to debate the issue Tuesday, more than a dozen people were injured in clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police at the Temple Mount, after rumors circulated that ultra-Orthodox Jews planned to hoist the Israeli flag there.

Israeli flags fly in front of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, Feb 25, 2014.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Israeli forces near the Temple Mount, where Palestinian protesters and Israeli police engaged in clashes Tuesday.Credit: AFP

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