JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel may try to assume more control over Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, a government minister told American Jewish leaders.
Naftali Bennett, the chairman of the Jewish Home party and the minister of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs, on Monday told leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations at the group’s annual meeting in Jerusalem that his office has taken steps to exercise greater Israeli sovereignty over eastern Jerusalem, Haaretz reported.
Among the steps, he said, is providing better services to the Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem.
In addressing the issue of the Temple Mount, Bennett reportedly said, “Unfortunately, the Temple Mount today doesn’t allow for the full exercise of freedom of religion, and there is discrimination against Jews there. But we have to be very careful when dealing with the Temple Mount because of the huge sensitivity of the site.”
The Temple Mount is under the control of the Islamic Wakf.
Bennett’s speech came a day after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told a group of visiting Israeli students that he would not be willing to share sovereignty over the Temple Mount but would allow Jews to worship at the Western Wall, one of Judaism’s holiest sites.
On Sunday, lawmakers in Jordan threatened to shut down the country’s embassy in Tel Aviv and expel Israel’s ambassador to Amman if Israeli lawmakers drafted a law to end the Wakf’s authority over Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem, calling it a breach of the Jordan-Israel peace treaty.
A Knesset plenum debate on “the loss of Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount” is scheduled for Tuesday.