Al Aqsa in an east Jerusalem hotel. Photo: Pinhas Inbari

Several years ago, due to the then foreign minister, Sylvan Shalom’s, contacts with Pakistan, a delegation from Pakistan arrived secretly to Israel and they wished to visit the al-Aqsa mosque, but they refused to enter through the Israeli gates, and did not want to contact the Waqf either. The Foreign Ministry called me in order to arrange it privately through my contacts with the Waqf, and the Waqf approved their admission. I brought the delegation to the Lions Gate and thence the Waqf welcomed them and I was privileged to enter the mosque that was and still is closed to Jews.

Last week, and Emirate delegation came to visit the Aqsa mosque, this time through the Israeli gate – the Magarbeh Gate – and escorted by Israeli police.

This looks like a breach of the status quo, but it isn’t. To the contrary, it solidifies it – but there are going to be changes in the status of Jordan, if they are not going to join the caravan soon.  

What is the status quo? The bottom-line is – the mosque plaza is fully Muslim; the Western Wall is fully Jewish, and visitors of all religions are free to visit the site as tourists. Israel is responsible for the security of the sites, the Muslim Waqf is responsible for the administration. The Waqf is part of the Jordanian Waqf Ministry and hence Jordan is the Arab state that is the guardian of al-Aqsa and this position is confirmed with Israel in the peace treaty.

So, what we can say about last week visit is that the Emirates confirmed the role of Israel as the responsible for the security in the plaza. Are the Emirates also ready to recognize the Jewish religious participation in the holy site? Most probably not.

A day before the peace treaty was brought to the approval of the Knesset, the head of the Security Committee Zvi Hauser, demanded to bring to the approval “all the articles, also the hidden” which means that he knows that there are secret articles. What would they be? Not the F35 because this issue is bilateral between the Emirates and the USA, so in our opinion they relate to the Palestinian problem. After president Trump announced that the borders of the Palestinian state are agreed and BB did not react to it, and after in the Kushner paper, it was said that only “peaceful” visitors would be allowed to enter the yards that’s to say no Jewish of Arab trouble makers that aspires at changing the status quo and the Muslim character of the site will be “steel molded” in the terms of the status quo.

But bypassing the Waqf in last week visit bears a message to Jordan. If they want to keep the title of the guardians of the holy plaza that must get tuned with the new reality on the ground and indeed there are signs that Jordan is changing course and going to join the new trend led by Saudi Arabia. in real terms, it must agree to a stronger custodianship on the holy place to Islam. Jordan will stay the custodian but will be reinforced by Saudi Arabia and other Muslim powers that belong to the Arab-Israel axis.

Not Turkey neither Qatar….  

Pakistan? Maybe. Haniyya told lately to a British journalist that Pakistan refused to join the Moslem Brothers bloc to oppose the peace process between Israel and the Gulf. So, maybe something is already being cooked in hidden diplomatic kitchens.