Israel says it won’t change rules at Aqsa Mosque

Reports suggested Israel was planning to allow Jewish worshipers into al-Aqsa Mosque

Published: Updated:

Israel does not plan to change the status quo at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque by allowing Jewish worshipers there, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Thursday.

Netanyahu’s office issued a statement saying the two leaders discussed “the latest incidents” at the site, considered by Muslims as their third holiest place.

For several hours on Wednesday morning, heavy clashes raged at the mosque compound as Israeli police faced off with Palestinian stone-throwers bent on preventing a visit by Jewish extremists, in an incident which prompted Jordan to recall its ambassador in protest.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s commitment to preserve the status quo on the Temple Mount as well as Jordan’s special status at the site,” a statement from the premier’s office said, using the Israeli name for al-Aqsa Mosque, according to AFP.

Jordan’s government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani told Al Arabiya News Channel: “Netanyahu’s call to King Abdullah was a step to contain the situation after Jordan recalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv.”

He said Netanyahu’s pledge not to change the status quo in Jerusalem was a “positive move” but that it remains to be seen if the Israeli government will honor its commitment on the ground.

He said Jordan was planning to take “several measures” if the Israeli government continued escalation in the holy site.

Jordan’s status as custodian of the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and other Muslim holy sites in annexed east Jerusalem is enshrined in the 1994 peace treaty between the two countries.

Under the current status quo, Jews are permitted to visit the esplanade but not to pray there for fear it would cause friction at one of the most sensitive holy sites in the Middle East.

Fears that Israel was poised to legislate changes to the status quo at the compound have stoked a wave of unrest, with young Palestinians hurling stones to prevent visits by extremist Jewish groups whose stated aim is to secure prayer rights at the site.

Israel has repeatedly insisted it has no plans to change the current status quo at the plaza, with the premier seeking to distance himself from rightwing voices within his governing coalition expressing support for such a move.