Palestinians concerned about Israeli draft bill to divide Al-Aqsa Mosque

A band of pigeons fly over the Dome of the Rock, in the al-Aqsa mosque compound, in Jerusalem’s Old City on February 13, 2021. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)
  • PM Mohammed Shtayyeh warns Israeli authorities against submitting Amit Halevi bill to Knesset
  • Netanyahu using Al-Aqsa issue to gain political victories, top Palestinian official warns

RAMALLAH: Palestinians are deeply concerned about a draft law being discussed in the Israeli Parliament to divide Al-Aqsa Mosque and aim to request the support of Turkiye, Malaysia, Indonesia and Egypt to prevent the law from being implemented.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh warned Israeli authorities against submitting the bill, proposed by Likud party member Amit Halevi, to the Israeli Knesset in the coming days.

His remarks came at the beginning of the Cabinet session in Ramallah.

Taking this step, he said, would result in “overwhelming anger,” the consequences of which “cannot be predicted because of the sanctity and religious value of Al-Aqsa Mosque for the Palestinian people, Arabs and Muslims.”

He called for Arab, Islamic and international action that goes beyond condemnation and instead imposes sanctions that would prevent any change to Al-Aqsa Mosque and stop any violation of Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.

The draft bill seeks to divide Al-Aqsa Mosque between Muslims and Jews.

Halevi has proposed allocating the area stretching from the courtyard of the Dome of the Rock to the end of the northern border of Al-Aqsa Mosque to the Jews.

Palestinians are concerned that the plan represents only the beginning of a large and dangerous project that will transform the Palestinian-Israeli political conflict into a religious war, leading to widespread violence in the Palestinian territories.

Palestine and Jordan, which has custodianship of the Islamic and Christian holy sites, oppose any interference or change by the Israeli authorities inside Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Ahmed Al-Ruwaidi, the presidential adviser on Jerusalem affairs, decried the plan as another Israeli attempt to impose control on Jerusalem and annex East Jerusalem as a part of Israel.

Al-Ruwaidi told Arab News that the right-wing Israeli government is seeking to reduce the Palestinian role in Jerusalem by targeting Palestinian institutions and figures, as well as the Hashemite guardianship over Islamic and Christian holy sites.

Al-Aqsa Mosque is a sacred place for Muslims alone, and Israel must respect Jordanian guardianship over it, Al-Ruwaidi told Arab News.

He said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had given the green light to Israeli far-right activists such as Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich to storm Al-Aqsa and make racist statements.

Netanyahu is using the Al-Aqsa Mosque issue to gain political victories, Al-Ruwaidi said, warning that if a religious war erupts, everyone will suffer its impacts.

Palestinians say that the bill to divide Al-Aqsa Mosque would change its Islamic identity and confine it solely to the Al-Qibli prayer hall, similarly to the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, which also was divided, allotting 75 percent of the space for Jewish worshippers and the remaining 25 percent for Muslims.

In his plan, Halevi has proposed what Palestinians say is an upheaval of the status quo and will result in expanding Israeli control over the mosque.

The draft law would allow Jews to enter the complex from all gates, rather than exclusively through the Moroccan Gate, which is the only gate that is under the full control of Israeli authorities and which no Palestinians can access.

In another development, the Ministerial Committee for Legislative Affairs in the Israeli Knesset has approved a bill that aims to collect fines imposed by military courts in the West Bank on Palestinians and traffic fines collected by the Israeli police and transfer them to the treasury of the Israeli government.

The Knesset Plenum is likely to vote on the bill soon.


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