Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday that Israel will make its own decisions concerning Jerusalem and the Temple Mount without any foreign interference, in an apparent reference to statements by Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas.
“All decisions regarding the Temple Mount and Jerusalem will be made by the Israeli government, which holds sovereignty over the city, without any foreign considerations,” Bennett said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting according to the Times of Israel.
“We certainly reject any foreign interference in the decisions of the Israeli government,” Bennett said.
“Of course, the State of Israel will continue to maintain a respectful attitude toward members of all religions in Jerusalem,” Bennett said. “A united Jerusalem is the capital of only one state – the State of Israel.”
Abbas, whose party has frozen its participation in the coalition for the past three weeks amid tensions at the holy site, wrote in a Facebook post Saturday that his party’s future role in the government will be determined by talks held by a joint committee of Israeli and Jordanian officials.
“Ra’am’s position in the coalition, as regards the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, will be based on the results of the joint Israeli-Jordanian-international meetings,” Abbas wrote.
“The coalition’s leadership — Prime Minister [Bennett] and Alternate Prime Minister [Yair Lapid] — have been informed of this clear and definitive position,” Abbas added.
An Islamic Movement official told The Times of Israel that Ra’am had pushed for the new joint Israel-Jordanian committee to resolve burning issues on the Temple Mount, such as reducing the Israeli police presence and expanding the Waqf’s authority.
According to the official, the committee was devised by Ra’am in consultation with the Jordanian monarch during Abbas’s visits to Amman in recent weeks.
Bennett’s comments Sunday on the Temple Mount were slammed by senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein al-Sheikh as “a violation of international law.”
“This does not recognize the historical status quo, and violates the Jordanian Hashemite custodianship of the holy sites in East Jerusalem,” said al-Sheikh, one of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s closest advisers.
The Old City compound is the holiest site for Jews, and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which sits atop the Temple Mount, is the third-holiest shrine for Muslims.
Jordan oversees the flashpoint site via its control of the Waqf Islamic endowment that administers the compound.
Tensions on the holy site in recent weeks have led to violent clashes, rising pressure from Israel’s allies, and threats from Hamas terrorists, as well as heightening the ongoing coalition crisis.
Last month, Ra’am announced it would temporarily freeze its membership in both the Knesset and the coalition amid mounting pressure in the wake of clashes between Palestinians and police on the Temple Mount.
The decision was seen as largely declarative because the Knesset was in recess at the time. However, the parliament is set to kick off its summer session on Monday with the freeze still intact.
At the weekly meeting, Bennett also addressed the capture of the two Palestinian men suspected of carrying out the deadly terror attack in Elad last week.
“We said we would get the terrorists, and so we did,” Bennett said. The prime minister thanked the security forces and sent his condolences to the families of the three men who were killed in the axe and knife rampage.
The Ynet news site reported that one of the two terrorists had left a will saying he was carrying out the attack “for the harm done to the Temple Mount.”
In a speech last week, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar threatened violent consequences should Israelis continue visiting the Temple Mount.
According to the status quo Jews can visit but not pray. However in recent years there have been multiple incidents of Jews muttering prayers at the compound, with security forces apparently turning a blind eye.
Palestinians and Israeli forces have clashed repeatedly at the Temple Mount over the past few weeks. The violence resembled incidents from last year when rioting at the site helped spark an 11-day war in May between Israel and Gaza-based terror groups led by Hamas.
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