Jordan’s king on Wednesday announced that he would donate 1 million Jordanian dinars ($1.4 million) to the Waqf Islamic Trust, which administers the Temple Mount compound in the Old City of Jerusalem.
The money is seen as a major show of support for the Waqf, which led protests against Israeli security measures at the holy site last month, ramping up tensions between Israel and the Arab world.
The Waqf, a Jordan-based organization in charge of the Muslim holy sites on the Temple Mount, said that the money will go to the Islamic Museum in the compound and to a cash bonus of 300 dinar ($423) to each of the Waqf workers, the Hebrew media Ynet website reported.
The donation comes amid strained relations between Israel and Jordan after recent violent clashes sparked following the introduction by Israel of walk-through metal detectors — later removed — at the Jerusalem holy site. New security equipment was set up in the days after a terror attack on July 14 in which three Arab Israelis killed two Israeli policemen using guns that were smuggled onto the Temple Mount.
Presiding over a meeting of government ministers Wednesday, Abdullah said that Amman was closely following the situation in Jerusalem. He said the challenge in keeping calm in the city was not only related to security, but diplomatic as well.
He also said Jordan was continuing to push for the prosecution of an Israeli Embassy guard who killed two Jordanians during the height of tensions last month. Israel says the guard was assaulted by one of the Jordanians in a suspected nationalistic attack.Jordan, which considers itself a custodian of Jerusalem holy sites, was seen as playing a key role in lowering tensions, releasing the guard to Israel at the same time as Israel removed the metal detectors. Israel later rolled back other security measures as well, after almost two weeks of violent protests in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Palestinian Muslim worshipers pray outside Lions Gate, which leads to the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, on July 26, 2017 (AFP PHOTO / Ahmad GHARABLI)
However, Abdullah and other Jordanians have fumed at the warm welcome the guard, Ziv Moyal, received from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu upon returning from Amman, with the king accusing Netanyahu of risking diplomatic ties to win political points at home.
Earlier Wednesday, fisticuffs between two troublemaker legislators from Israel and Jordan on the Allenby Bridge linking the countries were avoided after Netanyahu ordered Likud MK Oren Hazan not to face off against Jordanian MP Yahya Al-Saud.
Calling the ties between Israel and Jordan a “five-star hotel relationship” because groups from each side “just meet in hotels,” Saud said the showdown with Hazan was an opportunity for him to express the public’s real opinion of Israel, stripped of diplomatic niceties.
“The Jordanian people totally refuse any relationship with the [Israeli] entity… we stand with the Palestinian people,” he ranted in a live-streamed Facebook tirade that lasted over an hour.
The Waqf was seen as a main driver of tensions over the Temple Mount after it instructed worshipers to boycott the compound over the security measures, telling them to pray in the streets and nearby alleys rather than pass through the detectors.
Waqf officials lead Muslim prayers outside the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City on July 16, with metal detector gates in the background. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
The Palestinian Authority and the Hamas terror group both called for “days of rage” against the security equipment, which Muslims deemed a change in the status quo at the Mount.
The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and is revered as the site of the biblical temples. It is also the third-holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina, and is known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif.
Under an arrangement in place since Israel captured the Old City in the Six Day War in 1967 and extended its sovereignty there, non-Muslims are allowed access to the site but are forbidden to pray there. Under that status quo, Israel is responsible for security at the site while the Jordanian trust — the Waqf — is in charge of administrative duties.
AFP and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.