Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’s minister of religious affairs, Sheikh Yusuf Ida’is, recently said that Israel plans to “take over the Al-Aqsa Mosque, destroy it and build the alleged Temple,” Palestinian Media Watch reported. In making that false claim, Ida’is directly contradicted remarks by other PA officials that Abbas opposes violence and wants to foster a peaceful atmosphere in Jerusalem.
“All that Israel wants is to Judaize the Holy City, take over the Al-Aqsa Mosque, destroy it and build the alleged Temple. Under Jerusalem there is a city of tunnels belonging to Israel. Yesterday, I was told that Israel has an underground market beneath the Jaffa Gate, which draws many [Palestinian] residents who shop there,” Ida’is said on official PA television on Dec. 3.
Currently, the Israeli government prohibits only Jews from praying on the Temple Mount, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly vowed to maintain the “status quo” at the holy site. But frequent Palestinian riots and violence have recently taken place there. Palestinian Media Watch said Monday that polling data has “shown that Palestinians consider themselves religious, so the alleged threat against the holy sites comprises an effective tool for PA leaders who wish to incite Palestinians to take action against Israelis.” An April 2014 poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion showed that 44 percent of Palestinians consider themselves “somewhat religious,” while 41 percent say they are “fairly religious.”
Palestinian Media Watch has also documented Palestinian claims that the Western Wall and the entire Temple Mount belong to Muslims.
“All this [Western Wall and Al-Aqsa Mosque plaza] is waqf and kharaj land (i.e., land belonging to Muslims) and no one is permitted to sell it or negotiate over it or forfeit it. It is ours and will remain ours. The occupation [Israel] is the one that will leave,” Abbas’s advisor on religious affairs and supreme shari’ah, Judge Mahmoud Al-Habbash, said on official PA TV last month.