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Netanyahu’s UAE visit postponed amid fears of Palestinian violence on Temple Mount

Netanyahu’s UAE visit postponed amid fears of Palestinian violence on Temple Mount

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s first official visit to the United Arab Emirates has been postponed due to National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gevir’s visit to the Temple Mount on Tuesday morning.

“We cannot host Netanyahu now, especially when there is a possibility of escalation,” said a source in Abu Dhabi’s Tazpit Press Service linked to the UAE government.

On Monday, the prime minister’s office confirmed that Netanyahu’s first foreign trip as prime minister would be to the United Arab Emirates, but did not announce a date. It is widely believed that the visit will take place next week.

Arab sources report that “over the past two days, Emirati diplomats have taken aggressive action to dissuade Netanyahu from letting Benqwir visit the Temple Mount.” They describe the Abu Dhabi-Jerusalem discussions as “very tense.” .

The UAE is concerned that Palestinian violence will escalate in the coming days, especially during Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount. Netanyahu’s presence in Abu Dhabi during the escalation was politically and diplomatically awkward for the Emiratis.

“We congratulated Netanyahu when he won the elections, but we cannot accept a situation in which the Abraham Accords will be used as a cover for acts against the Palestinians, like changing the status-quo in East Jerusalem or annexing the West Bank,” sources told TPS in Abu Dhabi.

Many Arab countries, including Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, have condemned Ben Gewir’s visit to the Temple Mount. But the escalation of violence in Palestine is by no means certain.

“Ben-Gvir’s visit to the mountain early in the morning under heavy security was an act of cowardice and surrender. Therefore, it did not require a military response,” a Palestinian source told TPS. “Nevertheless, we are concerned by this move and by the extreme policies that the new Israeli government appears to have embarked on.”

In Gaza, Hamas has also sent uncertain signals.

“The Hamas leadership was caught off guard by Ben-Gvir’s move, which puts it in a very difficult position after promising to respond to any provocation by Al-Aqsa,” a Palestinian source told TPS.

After repeated condemnation from the Arab world and a postponement of his visit to the UAE, Netanyahu’s office issued a press release saying: “The prime minister is obliged to maintain the status quo on the Temple Mount, but we will not surrender to the threat of Hamas.

“According to the status quo, Israeli ministers have visited the mountain more than once in the past few years, including former Minister of the Interior Gilad Erdan. Therefore, the claim of changing the status quo is groundless.”

Although Netanyahu was prime minister when Israel signed the Abraham Accords with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco in 2020, he has never publicly visited those countries due to Israel’s repeated campaigning and coronavirus travel restrictions.

The Temple Mount, where the First and Second Temples are built, is the holiest site in Judaism. The delicate current situation governing it dates back to 1967, when Israel liberated the Old City of Jerusalem from Jordan during the Six-Day War.

Fearing a religious war, then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan agreed to let the Muslim Trusteeship Islam Waqf continue to manage the day-to-day affairs of the holy site, while Israel would maintain overall sovereignty and be responsible for security. Under the status quo, Jews and non-Muslims will be allowed to visit the Temple Mount, but not to pray there.

In September, the number of Jews visiting the Temple Mount passed the 50,000 threshold for the first time in modern history, according to Beyadenu, an organization dedicated to promoting Jewish ties to the Holy Land.

Though Judaism is the holiest place for Jews in the world, rabbis have increasingly divided their views on Jewish access to the Temple Mount. For centuries, there was broad rabbi consensus that the laws of ceremonial purity still applied at the site. But in recent years, a growing number of rabbis have argued that ritual purity laws do not apply to all parts of the Temple Mount and have encouraged visits to permitted areas in order to maintain Jewish ties to the Temple Mount.

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