Jordan has stepped up efforts to persuade Israel to preserve Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa mosque’s ancient status quo and avoid violent clashes that could escalate the situation, according to Jordanian officials and Western diplomats.
Jordan has informed Washington that it was ready to discuss the problem with Israel when the holy month of Ramadan ended next week, according to the officials. The goal would be to determine what steps Israel could take to restore the mosque’s conditions to those of 22 years ago.
Since 2000, Jordan claims that Israel has steadily eased restrictions on mosque worship.
A Jordanian official who sought anonymity said the latest diplomatic effort is “to deal with the sources of the conflict and guarantee that things don’t explode again,” adding that Washington had recently been given a paper that “clearly” explained the kingdom’s position.
Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at the mosque compound over the past two weeks have fuelled Arab outrage and international anxiety about a return to a wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The compound, known as the Noble Sanctuary, is Islam’s third holiest place and a hotbed of Israeli-Arab animosity. It is known to Jews as the Temple Mount, and it is considered the holiest site in Judaism.
Jordan’s proposal, according to a Western official, did not include creating a joint committee with Israel to discuss Muslim and Christian shrines in Jerusalem’s Old City. Several Israeli news sites reported that it did, but Jordan is unwilling to give Israel such an official position.
Jordan, whose ruling Hashemite dynasty is in charge of the Muslim and Christian sites, claims that Israel has been undermining a centuries-old custom of non-Muslims not worshiping in mosque compounds since 2000.
According to the sources, Amman told Washington that Israel should lift limitations on Jordan’s religious Waqf administration’s staffing and allow it to oversee all non-Muslim visits and forbid prayer by them.
Jordan and Arab governments have accused Israel of attempting to change the status quo of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City, which it conquered during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. It also claims to be implementing a long-standing prohibition on Jewish prayer on the grounds.
Jordan claims Israel is restricting Muslim worshipers’ access and failing to discipline Israeli far-right nationalists whose rituals breach the previous status quo and, according to Islam, defile the holy place.
“Jordan is maintaining direct contact with the Israelis, as well as with Washington and other international parties, to demand that Israel recognize the historic status that existed prior to 2000,” a Jordanian official said.
Israel barred non-Muslim visitors until the end of Ramadan on Friday. Jordan’s Foreign Minister, Ayman Safadi, told the media that this was a “positive move toward maintaining the status quo, lowering tensions, and restoring tranquility.”