Amidst growing concerns and warnings from the Palestinian resistance, Amit Halevi, a prominent figure in the Israeli Knesset and member of the Likud party, has presented a controversial proposal recently that seeks to divide the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied Al-Quds between Jewish settlers and Muslims. With the Likud party holding a narrow majority in the Knesset, this divisive plan has sparked intense debates and raised questions about the potential threat it poses to Palestinian heritage. The proposal’s aim to partition one of the holiest sites in Islam has ignited fears of undermining the religious and cultural significance of the al-Aqsa Mosque and the broader struggle for Palestinian identity and self-determination.
This proposal has raised uncertainties among Palestinians and the wider Muslim community, who have long been apprehensive about the regime’s intentions to Judaize the third holiest site in Islam. In an interview with a Hebrew-language newspaper, Halevi outlined a divisive plan that designates the southern end of the compound, where the al-Aqsa Mosque is situated, for Muslim use. The remaining areas, including the central and northern parts where the Dome of the Rock is located, would be reserved for Jewish settlers.
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Additionally, Halevi has suggested replacing Jordan’s role as custodian of the Muslim and Christian holy places in occupied al-Quds with Israeli authority. These statements have drawn significant criticism, as they disregard the historical and religious significance of al-Aqsa to Muslims worldwide and undermine its cultural importance to the Palestinian people.
Alarming rise in Israeli settler incursions at Al-Aqsa Mosque
In recent years, there has been an alarming increase in Israeli settlers storming the al-Aqsa Mosque compound and conducting rituals in violation of the established status quo. These actions have resulted in clashes between Palestinian worshippers and Israeli forces, often leading to the brutal mistreatment and assault of men and women protesting against these desecrations. The al-Aqsa Mosque compound represents not only a holy site for Muslims but also holds profound symbolism in Palestinian culture and their struggle for existence.
The proposal put forth by Amit Halevi has further exacerbated tensions surrounding the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, highlighting the on-going challenges faced by Palestinians in preserving their religious and cultural heritage in occupied al-Quds. The international community continues to closely monitor the situation and express concerns over the potential repercussions of such divisive measures.
In May 2021, tensions escalated between the regime and the Palestinian resistance after the al-Aqsa Mosque compound was attacked and desecrated, leading to the “Sword of al-Quds” operation initiated by the resistance in Gaza. The operation involved firing missiles into occupied Palestinian territories, targeting critical Israeli infrastructure facilities. In response, Israel launched indiscriminate airstrikes on the besieged Gaza Strip, resulting in the tragic deaths of numerous women and children.
It is important to note that the United Nations does not recognise Israel’s occupation of the holy city of al-Quds, as it rejects the acquisition of land through war. However, the international body has faced criticism for its limited action in defending the oppressed Palestinian people residing in the region.
Amit Halevi’s proposed changes to the access procedures for Israeli settlers entering the al-Aqsa Mosque compound further complicate the situation. He demands that settlers be allowed to enter through all gates, disregarding the fact that currently, only the southwestern Moroccan Gate is under Israeli control, preventing Palestinian access to the other 15 entry points.
Palestinian resistance on the rise
In September of the previous year, Israeli settlers breached the al-Aqsa Mosque compound through the Lions’ Gate, marking the first time since the occupation of al-Quds in 1967 that settlers had entered the courtyards of the holy site through that gate.
The Palestinian resistance factions have issued a joint statement, declaring that any plan to divide the al-Aqsa Mosque would be considered a declaration of war. They have warned Israel of the potential repercussions that such actions could entail.
The resistance groups emphasised that the Zionist regime’s continuous crimes, including Halevi’s proposal, are part of a larger plan aimed at dividing and Judaizing the al-Aqsa Mosque, ultimately asserting Israeli sovereignty over the holy site. They called upon all Palestinian resistance groups to strengthen their presence at the al-Aqsa Mosque and increase retaliatory operations and confrontations against the occupation forces. The statement also urged expanding retaliatory operations to the occupied Palestinian territories of 1948.
In a separate incident, Israel conducted a raid in Ramallah, located in the occupied West Bank, to demolish the home of a Palestinian inmate who had carried out a retaliatory operation against Israeli settlers. Palestinian youth protested the attack, and the Israeli military responded with live fire, rubber bullets, tear gas, and targeted attacks on journalists. As a result, one Palestinian was killed, and dozens of others, including journalists, were injured. Israel has been accused of deliberately targeting journalists to prevent the documentation of these atrocities.
While Israeli raids in the occupied West Bank have become increasingly common, the extensive raid in Ramallah, where the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority government is located, stands out as a rare occurrence, showcasing the extent to which the new Israeli cabinet is willing to push boundaries. The destruction of homes as a form of collective punishment is considered illegal under international humanitarian law, and the UN has condemned this practice.
Furthermore, reports have emerged of a newly formed armed resistance in the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank successfully repelling an Israeli military convoy’s attempt to enter the city. The resistance forces displayed their strength by forcing the Israeli convoy to retreat, underscoring the growing power and determination of the young Palestinian resistance in the occupied West Bank, which emerged approximately two years ago.
Controversial plan sparks outrage among Palestinians
The proposed plan outlined in the given statement has been met with strong opposition and rejection by Palestinians, who express concerns that it could lead to a religious war in the region. The Higher Presidential Committee of Church Affairs in Palestine has released a statement calling for the plan to be halted and confronted.
Palestinians have long been apprehensive about the potential division of Al-Aqsa, similar to the partitioning of the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron during the 1990s. They point to the increasing number of Israeli ultra-nationalists who have been visiting and praying in Al-Aqsa, under the protection of the police, without permission from Palestinians. The statistics show a significant rise in the number of settlers entering the mosque through such incursions, raising concerns among Palestinians. The Hashemite royal family of Jordan has been the custodian of the Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, including Al-Aqsa, for several decades under the international arrangement known as the “status quo.” This delicate arrangement has ensured the preservation of the religious sites.
In response to the plan, a lawmaker referred to the Jewish term “Temple Mounwt” when discussing Al-Aqsa, stating that if Jews pray there, it does not make the entire area a holy place for Muslims. The lawmaker expressed the intention to take the northern end of Al-Aqsa for Jewish prayer, emphasizing the significance of the Dome of the Rock as the site where the Temple once stood.
Furthermore, the lawmaker seeks to change the access procedures for Jews visiting Al-Aqsa, demanding that they be allowed to enter through all gates, rather than being restricted to the south-western Moroccan Gate. Currently, the Moroccan Gate is the only entry point controlled by Israeli authorities, and Palestinians are unable to access it.
Last year, Israeli ultra-nationalists entered Al-Aqsa through the Lions’ Gate for the first time since the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem. Palestinians are concerned that allowing settlers to enter through different gates may indicate a broader Israeli strategy to assert control over the mosque and alter the established status quo. This has raised fears about the potential expansion of Israeli authority in the region.