Israel agreed to Jordan’s ban on Jews visiting Temple Mount, say petitioners

Government not denying an agreement with Jordan barring Jews from the Temple Mount during the coronavirus crisis, but tells the Supreme Court it only wants to answer questions behind closed doors.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Faced with a court order to answer if a deal with Jordan exists preventing Jews from visiting the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the government of Israel did not deny the agreement but requested it testify only behind closed doors, Israel Army Radio reported Thursday.

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, revered by both Jews and Muslims as a holy site, has been closed during the coronavirus crisis, but a petition to the High Court of Justice claimed that authorities have been letting Muslims back onto the site while keeping Jews out.

The petitioners claim the government is doing this as part of an arrangement with Jordan, which oversees the Temple Mount area as part of the peace treaty the two countries signed in 1994.

Despite recent threats by Jordan that it might sever relations if Israel annexes settlements in Judea and Samaria, behind the scenes there is considerable cooperation between Jerusalem and the Hashemite Kingdom in Amman.

In response to the High Court’s May 6 demand that the state disclose any deal to keep Jews away from the Temple Mount, the state refused to deny the existence of a secret agreement with Jordan to close the site to worshipers.

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Government lawyers requested to provide responses to the judges behind closed doors based on what they called the sensitive political nature of the issue and the security considerations involved.

Reporter Arnon Segal and activist Yehuda Etzion claim Israel made a secret deal with Jordan to keep all worshipers away from the site because of health reasons, but the Jordanian-controlled  Waqf allowed Muslims in anyway. The petition claimed that banning Jews was illegal and keeping out Segal, a journalist, violated freedom of the press.

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, where the ancient Jewish Temples stood. More than 600 years after Romans destroyed the second Temple, Islamic tradition says Muhammad rose to heaven on the same site and Muslims later built the Dome of the Rock to mark the spot along with the nearby Al Aqsa Mosque. The site is hotly contested with numerous clashes over the years.