Israeli PM Bennett tones down Jewish Al-Aqsa prayer comments

Israeli PM Bennett tones down Jewish Al-Aqsa prayer comments after Palestinian coalition partner slams compound storming
3 min read
19 July, 2021
An update from Israeli PM Naftali Bennett's office on Monday said 'there is no change in the status quo' at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, after indicating that Jewish worshippers might be allowed to pray there.
The Israeli premier toned down comments that opposed the prevailing arrangement at Al-Aqsa [AFP/Getty]

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett toned down a controversial pledge made on Sunday that his government would ensure Jews, as well as Muslims, would be permitted to pray at the Al-Aqsa compound in occupied East Jerusalem.

The PM's office issued a release on Monday saying that "[t]here is no change in the status quo", Haaretz reported.

The update explained that Bennett, leader of the far-right Yamina Party, wanted to underline that Jews would be permitted to go to the area, sacred to both Judaism and Islam, but that this did not relate to acts of worship.

His comments on Sunday were in stark contrast to the current Israeli arrangement that bans Jews from worshipping within the compound of the mosque.

Meanwhile, the extremist Religious Zionists political faction hit out at Bennett, claiming he had "folded" under the pressure of Palestinian-Israeli Islamist coalition partner Raam, or United Arab List.

The party had slammed the storming of the Al-Aqsa compound on Sunday by hundreds of far-right Israeli activists.

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Over 1,600 Israelis, including at least two Yamina MPs, took part in the raid to celebrate Tisha B'Av, a religious festival centring on Judaism's two destroyed temples.

The Religious Zionists claimed: "Once again, Mansour Abbas [Raam's chief] got mad, and once again, Bennett folded – this time on the Jewish right to worship on the Temple Mount.

"Sadly, the State of Israel is hostage to terror supporters."

Raam said that its supporters and the associated Islamic Movement would protect the holy mosque "with their bodies".

The faction claimed it made political attempts to stop the raid.

Raam is part of Israel's so-called "government of change" alongside parties from across the political spectrum, from Meretz on the left to the far-right Yamina.

In addition to Raam, the Palestinian Authority, the European Union, Jordan and the International Union of Muslim Scholars rebuked the storming of the Al-Aqsa compound.

To make way for the raid, Muslim worshippers were violently cleared out of the site during the early hours of Sunday morning, Palestinian media reported.

Witnesses told Palestine's official Wafa news agency that Israeli police beat worshippers and used tear gas and stun grenades, injuring dozens and effectively forcing them out of the compound.

Israel's new premier praised the police commissioner and minister of public security "for managing the events on the Temple Mount responsibly and with discretion" as part of his now-reversed Sunday comments, according to Haaretz.