WorldNetDaily: Israel to give up Temple Mount?


WND



FROM WND’S JERUSALEM BUREAU

Israel to give up
Temple Mount?

Palestinians say no agreement unless
Olmert forfeits holiest site in Judaism


Posted: August 17, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern


By Aaron Klein



© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com




JERUSALEM
— Palestinian negotiators drafting an agreement behind the scenes with
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office have made clear they will not
accept any final peace deal with Israel unless the Jewish state
forfeits the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, WND has learned.

According
to a report in Israel’s Yediot Aharonot daily yesterday, Olmert is
willing to discuss joint Israeli-Palestinian control over the Temple
Mount complex. The report didn’t state the positions of the Palestinian
side on the issue.

A
chief Palestinian negotiator, speaking to WND on condition his name be
withheld, said yesterday, “there can be no agreement with Israel unless
we get complete sovereignty of the Mount. Once Palestinian control over
the [Temple Mount] is fixed, then we will make assurances for Jewish
visits to the site.”

The
chief negotiator said aides from Palestinian Authority President
Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization have been hammering out the
parameters of a final status agreement for presentation in November at
a U.S.-backed international summit regarding the Middle East.

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Issues
already discussed between Israel and the Palestinians reportedly
include the division of parts of Jerusalem and debates regarding
permanent borders between Israel and the PA.

The
November international conference and talk from the Bush administration
the past few weeks has led many here to speculate the U.S. will push in
the near future for intense Israeli-Palestinian negotiations leading to
a Palestinian state.

With
a year and a half left in office, President George Bush and Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice have been urging meetings between Abbas and
Olmert to establish a framework for momentum leading to a breakthrough
at November’s conference. Olmert and Abbas have been meeting bi-monthly
in summits brokered by the U.S.

Asked
by WND whether Olmert is willing to forfeit the Temple Mount in an
agreement with the Palestinians, David Baker, a spokesman for the prime
minister, had no comment.

Jews, Christians barred from praying on Mount

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism. Muslims say it is their third holiest site.

The
First Jewish Temple was built by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C.
It was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The Second Temple was
rebuilt in 515 B.C. after Jerusalem was freed from Babylonian
captivity. That temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire in A.D. 70.
Each temple stood for a period of about four centuries.

The
Jewish Temple was the center of religious Jewish worship. It housed the
Holy of Holies, which contained the Ark of the Covenant and was said to
be the area upon which God’s “presence” dwelt. The Al Aqsa Mosque now
sits on the site.

The
temple served as the primary location for the offering of sacrifices
and was the main gathering place in Israel during Jewish holidays.

The
Temple Mount compound has remained a focal point for Jewish services
over the millennia. Prayers for a return to Jerusalem have been uttered
by Jews since the Second Temple was destroyed, according to Jewish
tradition. Jews worldwide pray facing toward the Western Wall, a
portion of an outer courtyard of the Temple left intact.

The
Al Aqsa Mosque was constructed around A.D. 709 to serve as a shrine
near another shrine, the Dome of the Rock, which was built by an
Islamic caliph. Al Aqsa was meant to mark where Muslims came to believe
Muhammad, the founder of Islam, ascended to heaven.

Jerusalem
is not mentioned in the Quran. Islamic tradition states Mohammed took a
journey in a single night from “a sacred mosque” – believed to be
in Mecca in southern Saudi Arabia – to “the farthest mosque” and
from a rock there ascended to heaven. The farthest mosque later became
associated with the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Currently under Israeli control, Jews and Christians are barred from praying on the Mount.

The
Temple Mount was opened to the general public until September 2000,
when the Palestinians started their intifada by throwing stones at
Jewish worshipers after then-candidate for prime minister Ariel Sharon
visited the area.

Following
the onset of violence, the new Sharon government closed the Mount to
non-Muslims, using checkpoints to control all pedestrian traffic for
fear of further clashes with the Palestinians.

The
Temple Mount was reopened to non-Muslims in August 2003. It still is
open but only Sundays through Thursdays, 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 12:30
p.m. to 1:30 p.m., and not on any Christian, Jewish or Muslim holidays
or other days considered “sensitive” by the Waqf.

During
“open” days, Jews and Christian are allowed to ascend the Mount,
usually through organized tours and only if they conform first to a
strict set of guidelines, which includes demands that they not pray or
bring any “holy objects” to the site. Visitors are banned from entering
any of the mosques without direct Waqf permission. Rules are enforced
by Waqf agents, who watch tours closely and alert nearby Israeli police
to any breaking of their guidelines.

‘Secret’ plan would give Palestinians West Bank

The talk of behind-the-scenes negotiations follows a WND report
earlier this week stating newly installed Israeli President Shimon
Peres has quietly drafted a plan for the Jewish state to evacuate and
transfer to the Palestinians nearly the entire West Bank and several
Arab Israeli cities located within territory that is undisputedly
Israel’s according to the international community.

The
West Bank is strategic territory that runs alongside Jerusalem and is
within rocket range of Tel Aviv and Israel’s international airport. It
is home to many biblical Jewish communities and some of Judaism’s
holiest sites.

Peres
has presented his initiative to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and to top
aides for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas the past few
weeks, after he took office as Israeli president last month, diplomatic
sources in Jerusalem told WND.

The official role of president here is limited largely to ceremonial matters; the president does not create foreign policy.

Olmert is mulling over the plan and agrees with much of its contents, the diplomatic sources said.

Peres’
plan calls for Israel to hand 97-percent of the West Bank over to
Abbas, with Israel retaining a small number of the territory’s Jewish
communities. In exchange for Israel keeping some land, the Jewish state
will give the PA control of Arab Israeli cities north of Tel Aviv
which, together with the evacuated West Bank territory, would amount to
the equivalent of 100 percent of the West Bank.

Already
during his bi-weekly meetings with Abbas, Olmert has granted a number
of security concessions to Abbas regarding increased Palestinian
control of the West Bank.

The
Israeli prime minister last month granted amnesty to 178 gunmen from
Abbas’ Fatah organization who comprise most of the senior leadership of
the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the declared military wing of Fatah that
is responsible for every suicide bombing in Israel the past three
years.

Olmert
is reportedly considering granting amnesty to 206 more Brigades
terrorists. According to Palestinian officials, the Israeli Prime
Minister already informed the PA that Fatah gunmen are largely immune
from Israeli anti-terror raids regardless of whether they are
officially on Olmert’s amnesty list.

Also,
Olmert is strongly considering removing hundreds of Israel Defense
Forces roadblocks and checkpoints situated in strategic sites located
throughout the West Bank. The IDF sees the checkpoints as crucial in
helping stop terrorists, including suicide bombers, from infiltrating
Jewish cities.

As
well, in a scantily-reported but major move, Israel last week started
allowing armed Palestinian policemen to patrol areas in the West Bank
that fall under Israeli security control according to the 1993 Oslo
Accords. Security in the territory, referred to as Area B, is supposed
to be ensured by the IDF, which still monitors the area but has allowed
for an unprecedented stepped-up armed Palestinian security presence
there.

In
response to the renewed momentum toward a Palestinian state, rabbis for
the Yesha Council of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria –
the West Bank – yesterday slammed the Israeli government for
considering major concessions.

The
council released a statement expressing “concern at the irresponsible
diplomatic moves being made during these days, the main point of which
is the consent to the establishment of a Palestinian state in Judea and
Samaria. These moves are founded upon irrelevant considerations of
political survival, and are being made in total opposition to the
opinion of the defense establishment.”

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