An idea floated by Israel’s tourism minister to ease the entrance of Jewish visitors to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount – the holiest site in Judaism – has been severely criticized by a senior PLO official who called it a "loud insult" to Muslims and said it could “drag the whole region into disastrous clashes.”
Hanan Ashrawi, the PLO executive committee member, is herself a Christian.
“They are violating the sanctity of religious sites without consequences, which completely terminates possibilities for peace and will ultimately drag the whole region into disastrous clashes,” Ashrawi said in a statement Tuesday.
According to the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency, Ashrawi said Israel should be held accountable for "violations" against Muslim and Christian holy sites.
Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi speaks at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency exhibition, Nov. 28, 2013 at the Al-Mamal Centre in the Old City of Jerusalem. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)
A Hamas operative earlier this year told Israeli interrogators that Hamas pays monthly salaries as high as $1,440 to Arab protesters to sit near the tourist entrance and harass and throw stones at visiting Jews.
The Israeli tourism ministry was looking into opening a second entrance to non-Muslims, because of the heavy traffic of visitors, Israel’s Army Radio reported Monday.
The Temple Mount is the site where both Jewish temples once stood. It is also the third-holiest site in Islam and is home to the Al-Aqsa mosque.
Under Israeli police regulations, non-Muslims are not permitted to publicly pray on the Temple Mount.
"I am astonished that of all people, Hanan Ashrawi, a Christian, who herself is prohibited from praying at the Temple Mount or meditating on the scriptures, suggests Muslims are 'insulted' by a Jewish presence at the site of the two Jewish temples,” Yisrael Medad, a blogger who writes about tensions on the site, told TheBlaze Wednesday.
“She should know that peace is based on mutual recognition, shared values and coexistence, but she rejects all this in opposing free access of Jews through either an additional gate being opened or more security checkpoints added to avoid the current situation of Jews and tourists waiting hours with queues exiting the Old City walls down towards the City of David,” Medad said.
On Wednesday, the eve of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, Palestinians clashed with Israeli police on the Temple Mount, throwing stones, Molotov cocktails and firecrackers. Such riots are often timed by the demonstrators around Jewish holidays.