Jordan is pushing to restore its property endowment rights as the custodian of the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem in an effort to contain Israeli aggression at the holy site.

Jordan says Israel is restricting access by Muslim worshippers to the compound and not restraining Israeli far-right nationalists from entering.
Jordan says Israel is restricting access by Muslim worshippers to the compound and not restraining Israeli far-right nationalists from entering. (Reuters)

Jordan has intensified efforts to push Israel to respect the historic status quo of occupied East Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque and avoid violent confrontations that could threaten a wider conflict, Jordanian officials and Western diplomats have said.

The officials on Thursday said Jordan had notified Washington it was ready to discuss the issue with Israel after the end of the holy month of Ramadan next week. The aim would be to identify steps that Israel could take to return conditions at the mosque to those of 22 years ago.

Jordan accuses Israel of having gradually changed restrictions on worship at the mosque since 2000.

The new diplomatic effort is "to deal with the roots of the tension and ensure that matters don't explode again," a Jordanian official who requested anonymity said, adding that Washington had recently been given a paper that "clearly" stated the kingdom's position.

Israeli attacks on worshippers during the month of Ramadan at the mosque compound have stoked anger and international concern about a slide back to a wider Israel-Palestine conflict.

A tinder-box for the regional tensions, the compound is the third holiest site in Islam. Jews refer to it as the Temple Mount and regard it as the holiest site in Judaism.

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'Undermining a centuries-old tradition'

Jordan, whose ruling Hashemite family has custodianship of the Muslim and Christian sites, says that since 2000, following the start of the second Intifada (uprising), Israel has undermined a centuries-old tradition under which non-Muslims do not worship in the mosque compound.

The second Intifada, a five-year-long uprising that killed thousands of Palestinians, was sparked in 2000 after Israeli security forces killed and wounded dozens of worshippers in Al Aqsa Mosque after Ariel Sharon, an Israeli general who served as the 11th Prime Minister of Israel, stormed Al Aqsa Mosque accompanied by a heavy security presence.

A Western diplomat said Jordan's proposal did not include convening a joint committee with Israel concerning Muslim and Christian shrines in occupied East Jerusalem. Several Israeli media outlets said it did, but Jordan is unwilling to concede such a formal role for Israel.

Amman told Washington that Israel should end restrictions on staffing of Jordan's religious Islamic endowment administration and let it manage all visits by non-Muslims and prevent worship by them, the sources said.

Israel denies accusations by Jordan and Arab states that it has tried to change the status quo of Muslim holy sites in the occupied East Jerusalem, which it illegally occupied in the 1967 War. It also says it is enforcing a long-standing ban on Jewish prayer at the compound.

Jordan says Israel is restricting access by Muslim worshippers and not restraining Israeli far-right nationalists whose rituals violate the former status quo.

On Friday, Israel banned non-Muslim visits until the end of Ramadan. This was a "good step to respecting the status quo and easing tensions and restoring calm," Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said.

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Source: Reuters