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Diplomatic incident causes delay for top Jordanian official's visit to Temple Mount

Jordan’s ambassador to Israel was held up at the Temple Mount entrance and asked for his permits; Israel says coordination in advance would have prevented this from happening

Jordanian Ambassador to Israel Ghassan Majali held up at entrance to Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, Jan. 17, 2023 (Photo: Screenshot/Twitter)

A diplomatic incident between Jordan and Israel took place over the Temple Mount on Tuesday, when Jordanian Ambassador to Israel Ghassan Majali turned up unexpectedly at the holy compound and was delayed entry. 

Jordanian media reports emerged shortly afterwards claiming Majali was prevented entrance to the Al Aqsa Mosque, which the Israel Police said were “false reports.”

According to Israeli media, because the ambassador arrived at the site unannounced, security asked him to wait briefly and to present his permit. Majali left the site in protest, only to return later after the issue was resolved between the two countries’ foreign ministries. 

He eventually toured the site and prayed at Al Aqsa.  

A statement from the Israel Police spokesperson explained the delay, saying the ambassador and the Jordanian director of the Waqf arrived at the entrance to the Temple Mount “without any prior coordination with the police.”

“A police officer who noticed them and did not recognize the persona – nor knew of the unexpected visit – informed his commander, waited to receive instructions and, for this purpose, delayed their entry into the Temple Mount area for a very short time,” the statement said.

The police highlighted that the Jordanian ambassador “was the one who decided at a certain stage to leave the place on his own initiative,” while the policeman updated his commander and received appropriate instructions. 

“If he had waited a few more seconds, he would have entered the Temple Mount area,” the police added.  

Jordan’s Foreign Ministry summoned Israeli Ambassador to Amman Eitan Surkis over the incident, handing him a letter condemning Israel’s conduct. 

The Temple Mount is known as a major flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Kingdom of Jordan controlled the site from 1948 until 1967, along with parts of eastern Jerusalem. 

Israel gained control over the Temple Mount in the Six-Day War of 1967, but granted Jordan custodianship over the Muslim sites on the plateau, the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque.

In its role, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is concerned with maintaining the Ottoman status quo as established under the direction Moshe Dayan, Israel's defense minister at the time, vis-à-vis the Temple Mount. 

The Knesset Research and Information Center in April 2014 said Dayan permitted the status quo that includes coordination regarding who gets to visit the compound, pray there and when, “to neutralize, as far as possible, the religious aspect of the Israeli-Arab conflict. He believed that leaving the management of the Temple Mount in the hands of the Muslim authorities would prevent an uprising in the territories of Judea and Samaria and in the other Muslim countries and would facilitate adaptation to Israeli control.” 

In 1967, the Israeli Ministerial Committee on Holy Sites ordered Maj.-Gen. Shlomo Goren, then-IDF chief rabbi, to “cease all actions connected to the organization of [Jewish] prayer, measurements and the like on the Temple Mount.”

Today, Jews are only allowed to ascend the site on certain days and times of the week, and are prohibited from performing religious rituals such as praying and singing. 

Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.

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