AMMAN: The Israeli central court accepted the appeal by the Jerusalem police against a lower court ruling that allowed “silent” prayer by Jewish activists on the grounds of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Wasfi Kailani, executive director of the Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of Al-Aqsa Mosque, told Arab News that the entire area of Al-Haram Al-Sharif/Al-Aqsa Mosque is an Islamic religious site that is exclusively for Muslims.
“All 144 dunums of the mosque compound is an Islamic location owned and managed by the Islamic Waqf (endowment).”
Kailani said that, while the Waqf Council welcomes visitors at certain hours, it is done with the understanding that they are welcomed to visit as tourists but not to pray, and “that the visiting rights should be open to all non-Muslims who enter Al-Aqsa with permission of Awqaf and follow their instructions.”
Kailani said Muslims from all around the world “should have access and the right of worship in Al-Aqsa.”
The earlier decision that would have changed the status quo in occupied Jerusalem was widely rejected in the region.
Jordan, whose Waqf Ministry administers the mosque in Jerusalem, condemned the initial lower Israeli court ruling. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Haitham Abulfoul said that the decision is null and void and lacks legal status under international law, which does not recognize Israeli jurisdiction on territories occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem.
Dimitri Diliani, head of the Palestinian National Christian Coalition, said that the decision of the Israeli central court was the result of united efforts by Palestinians and their friends.
“This victory is the result of the popular anger of Palestinians from all walks of life, in addition to the stance of Arab countries, led by Jordan, whose monarch King Abdullah II is the custodian of Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem.”
A 2014 Jordanian and Israeli understanding witnessed by the US says that Al-Aqsa is for “Muslims to pray and for all others to visit.”
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett backed down in July from statements that appeared to support the rights of Jews and Muslims to pray on the Muslim site, statements that would have marked a stark shift from Israel’s policy of maintaining the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy site.
Sources in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office claimed on July 19 that Bennett had “misspoken” when he said both Jews and Muslims have “freedom of worship” on the Temple Mount, which would be a potentially explosive change after decades of Jews being permitted only to visit there, but not to pray.
The current tensions began when Bilha Yahalom, a Jerusalem magistrate judge known for her right-wing position, ruled that the silent prayer at the complex cannot be considered a “criminal act.”
This came in an appeal by Rabbi Aryeh Lippo against a police ban on his visits to the flashpoint site following his repeated prayers in violation of the agreed position for visits to the Muslim site.
The police appealed the decision, which caused ripple effects in Jerusalem and throughout the region.