May 27, 2020

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White House statement on Temple Mount issue ignores Palestinians

Here is the full statement from White House Press Secretary about the events in Jerusalem, released on Wednesday:

Statement from the Press Secretary on Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif

The United States is very concerned about tensions surrounding the Temple Mount/Haram Al-Sharif, a site holy to Jews, Muslims, and Christians, and calls upon the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to make a good faith effort to reduce tensions and to find a solution that assures public safety and the security of the site and maintains the status quo.  The United States will continue to closely monitor the developments.

This is a vague statement that can be interpreted in a number of ways.  It seems calibrated to not offend anyone by not going into any details and highlighting the Muslim as well as Jewish names for the Temple Mount. Asking to maintain the “status quo” could be interpreted as being against the metal detectors but highlighting the importance of public safety and security implies the opposite. The “status quo” section can also be interpreted as being against Jewish prayer on the Mount, although the White House seems unlikely to say anything more pro-Jewish than the Netanyahu government which already promised to maintain the status quo.

What cannot be ignored from this statement, however, is the complete absence of the word “Palestinian.”

The Palestinian Authority is not asked to work to reduce tensions. 

This is a stinging omission from two angles.

It implies that the Palestinian Authority, which is calling for protests today against the very solution that “assures public safety and the security of the site,” is not expected to act like a responsible party by the White House. Mahmoud Abbas is not considered to be a responsible leader to tamp down tensions – he is regarded not as part of the solution, but as part of the problem.

From the Palestinian perspective, this statement is even worse. They claim to be the legal sovereign over the Old City of Jerusalem and they claim it as their future capital. The White House, in this statement, recognizes none of that. Jordan – whose only relevance is that they are the employers of the Waqf and who formerly had illegally annexed the West Bank but renounced that claim in 1988 – is considered more relevant to the Old City of Jerusalem than the purported “State of Palestine.”

Any way you read this, the White House has downgraded its opinion of Palestinian leadership to essentially being irrelevant as a partner to find a solution to what their own people are doing. Which means that this statement implicitly blames Mahmoud Abbas for his actions and inactions since the murders of two Israeli police from the “third holiest site in Islam” last Friday.

(h/t Irene)

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