Incitement against Israel for allegedly attempting to usurp Islamic holy sites in Yerushalayim has became even more strident in recent days, despite international calls to reduce tensions.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced Israel on Wednesday for what he called its “insult” to the al-Aqsa mosque in connection with Israeli actions at the site.
“The Zionist regime’s crimes in Palestine… are the foremost problem for Muslims,” Khamenei was quoted as saying by his official website.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s repeated assurances that Israel was committed to maintaining the status quo have failed to assuage the Islamic accusers.
Khamenei described Israeli behavior towards Palestinians as the “ultimate degree of ruthlessness and evil.”
The ayatollah’s remarks followed a threat on Tuesday by PA President Mahmoud Abbas who said there was a risk of a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising, erupting if violence at the al-Aqsa mosque in Yerushalayim did not ease and peace talks with Israel did not resume.
“We spoke about what’s happening at al-Aqsa,” Abbas told a news conference after meeting French President Francois Hollande. “It’s extremely dangerous. We don’t want it to continue and (if it did) the alternative would be chaos or an intifada (uprising) that we don’t want.”
Abbas called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to order an end to Israeli actions in the Old City. The Temple Mount, where al-Aqsa is located, is in that part of Yerushalayim.
In response, a senior Israeli official was quoted by The Jerusalem Post as saying that the international community should put an end to the “charade” whereby Abbas refuses to negotiate with Israel, deliberately creates a crisis, exacerbates the crisis with inflammatory rhetoric and then asks the world to “save us.”
“He has been using terrible language, inciteful language that is encouraging violence,” he said. “I think that European governments that are all too quick to criticize Israel should be passing a message on to Abbas and asking if he is doing everything he can to calm things down, or whether — on the contrary — he is doing the exact opposite.”
Those leaders in the Arab and Islamic world who talk about a supposed threat to the Aqsa Mosque are “simply conducting incitement,” the official said.
“There is no such threat. The Israeli government has reiterated over and over that the status quo will be scrupulously upheld, and the people who are propagating this mendacious charge should know that they are fomenting violence.”
Hollande urged calm in Yerushalayim and said the 1967 “status quo”, which meant access for Palestinians to al Aqsa, could not be put into question. This was apparently a reference to a temporary ban on Yom Kippur of access to Arab males under age 40. This is the group most likely to participate in the ongoing rioting at the site.
Netanyahu’s office said last week that Israel was committed to maintaining the status quo and that Palestinian “rioters” would not be allowed to prevent Jews visiting the area.
Most poskim have forbidden Jews to enter the area of Har Habayis.
The Palestinian leader was in Paris to meet Hollande ahead of the United Nations General Assembly next week.
France is trying to launch an international “contact group” at the United Nations that would comprise U.N. Security Council members, Arab states and the European Union with a view to reviving the so-called peace process.
“We have proposed to create a framework for an international group to help prepare a restart of this dialogue,” Hollande said. “The idea has been supported on the whole and at the U.N. General Assembly and in the months to come we will work to give it some substance.”
Meanwhile, the issue has caused a rift with Jordan. King Abdullah is so angry about it that he is refusing to communicate directly with Prime Minister Netanyahu.