After the Six-Day War, to avoid enflaming the Islamic world, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan agreed the Muslim authorities (the Waqf) would retain control over the Muslim holy places on the Temple Mount.
Jews were to have free access to visit, but they were prohibited from praying there to avoid conflict with the Muslims.
Muslims have always been free to pray at the mosque – until now.
Palestinians are furious about the Abraham Accords and seek to punish visitors from the UAE or other countries that normalize ties with Israel. According to one Arab source, “the secretary of the Fatah movement in Jerusalem, Shadi Mutawour, said any delegation visiting Jerusalem through the gate of occupation is not welcome” and “emphasized that the sovereignty over Jerusalem and the holy sites is Palestinian and only Palestinian” (“Fatah in Jerusalem: The visit of the Gulf delegation to a new storming of Al-Aqsa,” Sadaa News, October 16, 2020).
Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the Mufti of Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories, declared that praying at al-Aqsa is not allowed for anyone who normalizes relations with Israel.
Muslims who wish to enter the mosque must come through Jordan or the Palestinian Authority (“The Mufti of Jerusalem forbids praying at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and visiting the holy sites through normalization with Israel,” France 24, August 19, 2020). This would effectively mean that no one could visit the Temple Mount since the city is under Israeli control.
Nevertheless, on October 18, 2020, three people from the UAE “stormed the al-Aqsa courtyards” under the protection of Israeli police and were intercepted and asked to leave. An accompanying video, however, shows men calmly walking on the Temple Mount and another caught them taking photos inside the mosque with no one around them until a man tells them to leave (Mohammed Mohsen, “An Emirati normalization delegation storms the Al-Aqsa, which is closed to the Palestinians under the protection of the occupation,” The New Arab, October 18, 2020).
A spokesman for Hamas called the visit “a stab in the back.” He added, “We must work to stop all forms of normalization with the Zionist occupation and to mobilize all the energies of the nation in order to support the justice of the Palestinian cause and stand by our people and their rights” (“Hamas: The visit of an Emirati delegation to Al-Aqsa is a stabbing for the peoples and a desperate attempt to beautify the black face of the occupation,” UAE71 News, October 20, 2020).
Journalist Khaled Abu Toameh noted that Gulf Muslims are expressing their anger toward the Palestinians and saying al-Aqsa “belongs to all Muslims, and not only Palestinians.” Ahdeya al-Sayed, Chairwoman of the Bahraini Journalists Association, told the Jerusalem Post, Palestinian threats would not intimidate Gulf Arabs. “They won’t stop us from traveling to Israel and visiting any place we want. These empty threats are made only by cowards.” She added, “Al-Aqsa Mosque isn’t just a place belonging to the Palestinians, it’s for everyone to visit; it’s a holy site.”
Dr. Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa, Chairman of the Bahraini Hamad Global Center for Peaceful Coexistence, went further. After praying at the mosque without revealing his origin to avoid a confrontation, he said, “It is unacceptable to prevent anyone from any religion from praying. This is a new form of terror” (Khaled Abu Toameh, “Bahraini Al-Aqsa prayer-goer: This is a new form of terror,” Jerusalem Post, November 29, 2020).
Abu Toameh also qotes a Saudi journalist who called for the liberation of the mosque from Palestinian “thugs.” Moreover, Abu Toameh observed, “some Muslims feel safer visiting a mosque under Israeli protection than without it. Israeli policemen have protected Muslims who were visiting a mosque from being attacked by other Muslims – for supposedly promoting normalization with Israel. No wonder, then, that Gulf Muslims are now demanding an end to the exclusive control Palestinians that wield over the third-holiest site in Islam” (Khaled Abu Toameh, “Muslims: Al-Aqsa Mosque Does Not Belong to Palestinians,” Gatestone Institute, November 6, 2020).
Abu Toameh also reported on the reaction of Palestinians after the PA returned its ambassadors to Bahrain and the UAE after briefly recalling them to show their anger over the agreements with Israel. Mahmoud Abbas also resumed cooperation with Israel, which he had suspended for several months. Abu Toameh observes that it was the Palestinian people who suffered because of the PA’s actions; many of their salaries were cut and sick people, with the exception of VIP Saeb Erekat, were denied access to Israeli health care.
Both the Gulf Arabs and Palestinians are accusing Abbas of hypocrisy. The former demand an apology for being attacked for normalization with Israel while the PA reengages with Israel. The latter accuse their leaders of stabbing them in the back and sarcastically demand “the PA withdraw its ambassador from Ramallah to protest its own decision to ‘normalize’ relations with Israel” (Khaled Abu Toameh, “Why Palestinians Owe Arabs an Apology,” Gatestone Institute, November 26, 2020).
Meanwhile, Palestinians assert the al-Aksa Mosque is theirs and that they may deny access to anyone who normalizes relations with Israel who is not a Palestinian.
Myths & Facts published at Jewish Virtual Library