Jordanian foreign minister accused of aggravating Temple Mount tensions

Ayman Safadi is refusing to calm the situation, which is threatening to spiral out of control, Israeli officials say.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The diplomatic dispute between Jerusalem and Amman over the security situation on the Temple Mount remains hot, with a senior Israeli official accusing the Jordanian foreign minister of fanning the flames.

Senior Israeli officials are pointing the finger at the Hashemite Kingdom’s top diplomat, Ayman Safadi, who also serves as deputy prime minister, for not trying to calm down the tensions at the holy site that last week saw clashes between police and rioters.

On April 5, Israeli police arrested more than 350 Muslim rioters who barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa mosque. On April 8, hundreds of Muslims again barricaded themselves inside the mosque, preventing Muslims from praying and attempting to provoke a response from Israeli security services. However, police did not enter the building to clear out the extremists as they had on previous occasions.

Israeli Border Police officers on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during Ramadan, April 5, 2023. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.

The Jordanian government has publicly held Israel responsible for the escalation, with Israel’s Foreign Ministry shooting back by calling on Amman, through the Waqf Islamic trust tasked with safeguarding Muslim sites on the Temple Mount, to take action against the extremists.

Senior Israel officials met with Safadi before Ramadan in a bid to reduce tensions ahead of the holiday month, in talks they described to Walla! News as “very good.” But when the Temple Mount tensions increased, Safadi took a hard-line approach, they added.

One senior Israeli official likened Safadi’s conduct to that of Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, known to make provocative remarks and take controversial actions such as ascending the Temple Mount.

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir (left) visits the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, on Jan. 3, 2022. Source: Facebook.

Jordan’s Foreign Ministry has published a series of tweets and statements in recent days condemning Israel for what it claims are “violations” on the Temple Mount. On Wednesday, Safadi retweeted a ministry statement published in the parliament that the Palestinians are the No. 1 cause for Jordan and that “a just and comprehensive peace will not be achieved unless Jerusalem is liberated as the capital of an independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian national soil.”

Preempt violence in mixed Jewish-Arab cities

The decision by the Israeli police to bar non-Muslims from the Temple Mount over the last 10 days of Ramadan prevented an outbreak of violence in mixed Jewish-Arab cities similar to that which occurred in May 2021, Channel 12 reported on Wednesday, citing law enforcement officials.

Clashes on the Temple Mount could have spilled over into other flashpoint areas in the way that the events of 2021 quickly unfolded into a wider conflict, the intelligence indicated, according to the police officials.

The May 2021 tensions in Jerusalem led to the Hamas terrorist rulers of Gaza firing thousands of rockets at Israeli territory. Israel responded by targeting terrorist infrastructure in the Palestinian coastal enclave.

Rockets fired at Israel by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, May 18, 2021. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90.

Tensions to continue past Ramadan

The IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate in recent days has warned Israel’s political leadership that tensions are expected to continue after Ramadan ends on April 21.

The IDF report warns that war is closer than calm while cautioning that the military should wait to respond to any provocations from Hamas, Hezbollah or Iranian proxies in Syria so as to cool down tensions on the Temple Mount.

Security forces are bracing for possible violence on Friday for Quds Day—an annual event that takes aim at Israel and Zionism. A police official told Israel Hayom that Hamas could use Quds Day as propaganda against Israel, claiming the Temple Mount tensions as a victory.

Social-media incitement

The Temple Mount tensions amplify incitement against Israel on social media, the IDF intelligence report states.

In that regard, action is already being taken to push back against online incitement, with Channel 14 reporting that the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) and the State Attorney’s Office received court approval to shut down four websites associated with Hamas that incited terrorism.

The Tel Aviv District Court approved the request to restrict access to the sites.

The Shin Bet and the Cyber ​​Department of the State Attorney’s Office will “continue to thwart incitement on the internet carried out by the terrorist organization Hamas and other terrorist organizations,” the Shin Bet said.

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