UAE, China call for UN meeting over Ben-Gvir’s Al-Aqsa visit

The UAE and China have called for a UN Security Council meeting to discuss Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem (AFP - File)

Al-Jazeera  /  January 4, 2023

The UN Security Council is expected to convene on Thursday, according to diplomats.

The United Arab Emirates and China have called for a UN Security Council meeting after Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir entered Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in a widely denounced move.

The Council is expected to convene on Thursday, diplomats told Reuters late on Tuesday.

Ben-Gvir’s actions drew fierce condemnation across the world, with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UAE joining the Palestinians in condemning him. The Palestinian leadership called the intrusion “an unprecedented provocation”.

The Palestinian foreign ministry said it “strongly condemns the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque by the extremist minister Ben-Gvir and views it as an unprecedented provocation and a dangerous escalation of the conflict”.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh accused Ben-Gvir of staging the trip as part of a bid to turn the shrine “into a Jewish temple”, a goal of many within Israel’s far right.

Hamas, the group that governs the besieged Gaza Strip, warned that Ben-Gvir’s move amounts to crossing a “red line”. The Israeli military said a rocket had been fired from Gaza on Tuesday night, but that it had landed in the Palestinian territory.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement late on Tuesday claiming that he was “committed to strictly maintaining the status quo, without changes, on the Temple Mount [Al-Aqsa Mosque compound]”.

On Tuesday, Israeli media reported that Netanyahu’s planned visit to the UAE next week has been postponed until February, although sources close to the Israeli leader denied it had anything to do with Al-Aqsa incident.

Israel’s opposition leader and former prime minister Yair Lapid had warned on Monday that Ben-Gvir’s planned entrance to the compound would lead to violence, and called it a “deliberate provocation that will put lives in danger”.

Meanwhile, the US, Israel’s closest ally, expressed deep concern over the developments.

”We’re deeply concerned by any unilateral actions that have the potential to exacerbate tensions precisely because we want to see the opposite happen,” Department of State spokesman Ned Price said.

”The United States stands firmly for the preservation of the historic status quo with respect to the holy sites in Jerusalem.”

He added that any unilateral actions undercutting the status quo were ”unacceptable.”

Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, known as the Temple Mount to Jews, is holy to both Muslims and Jews.

However, Jews have traditionally believed that the site is too holy to be stepped on. On Tuesday, Israel’s Sephardi chief rabbi, Yitzhak Yosef, criticized Ben-Gvir for entering Al-Aqsa.

“What will people say when they see a minister, an observant Jew, who flouts the position of the rabbinate?” he asked.

The compound (also known as Al-Haram al-Sharif to Muslims) is a wide, walled plaza in the heart of the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem that incorporates Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. The compound has been managed continuously by Muslims, under a waqf (religious endowment), for hundreds of years.

The Jordanian-funded waqf has continued to administer the site since 1967, while Israel has security control. Under a longstanding agreement, the status quo of the site only permits Muslim prayer, and visits from non-Muslims are only permitted at specific times.

Israel occupied East Jerusalem, where Al-Aqsa is located, during the 1967 June War. It annexed the entire city in 1980 in a move never recognized by the international community.

SOURCE: AL-JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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UAE and China call for UN Security Council meeting on Al-Aqsa Mosque storming

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  January 4, 2023

New far-right Israeli government faces its first diplomatic crisis after Itamar Ben-Gvir causes uproar with his heavily armed incursion.

The United Arab Emirates and China have called for a United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss Itamar Ben-Gvir’s storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque’s courtyards in occupied East Jerusalem.

Israel’s far-right national security minister entered the courtyards on Tuesday accompanied by heavy security, in a highly provocative move that drew condemnation from his country’s allies in the West and Middle East.

Al-Aqsa Mosque is one of the holiest sites in Islam, and while it is similarly sacred to Jews, a longstanding agreement – as well as common Jewish practice – forbids Jewish prayer there.

According to diplomats, the Security Council meeting is likely to occur on Thursday.

Ben-Gvir’s provocative actions have been compared to those of Israel’s former prime minister Ariel Sharon, who made a similar trip to the site in 2000, sparking the Second Intifada Palestinian uprising.

Among those condemning the visit, which both the Palestinian Hamas movement and Israeli opposition warned could spark dangerous escalation, was the United States.

“The United States stands firmly… for preservation of the status quo with respect to holy sites in Jerusalem,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

“Any unilateral action that jeopardizes the status quo is unacceptable.”

Separately, State Department spokesman Ned Price said that the visit “has the potential to exacerbate tensions and to provoke violence”.

The United Arab Emirates, which normalized relations with Israel in 2020 as part of the US-backed Abraham Accords, also released a statement of condemnation

“The UAE today strongly condemned the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard by an Israeli minister under the protection of Israeli forces,” said the statement.

It called on “Israeli authorities to assume responsibility for reducing escalation and instability in the region”.

Jordan’s foreign ministry also summoned Israel’s ambassador. 

“Jordan condemns in the severest of terms the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque and violating its sanctity,” the ministry said.

Religious importance

Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque draws tens of thousands of pilgrims from across Palestine and the wider Muslim world each year.

It is also the site of the Jewish temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE.

Non-Muslims are allowed to visit the mosque, though prayer is prohibited and access to the Dome of the Rock shrine and Qibli prayer hall are restricted.

Since the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem began in 1967, the site has been the subject of contention between Muslim worshippers and those groups that want to restore full Jewish control over the area.

Since the 1967 June War, Jewish prayer at the site has been forbidden, though far-right settlers such as Ben-Gvir have frequently prayed there under heavy security in recent years.