UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Israel on Friday rejected a Palestinian appeal for an international protection force for the al-Aqsa mosque on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, saying the status quo was the only way to ensure stability in the region.
The new Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, spoke to reporters ahead of a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council concerning weeks of killings that have claimed dozens of Israeli and Palestinian lives.
The unrest has been triggered in part by Palestinians’ anger over what they see as increased Jewish encroachment on Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque compound, which is also revered by Jews as the place where two biblical Jewish temples once stood.
“Israel will not agree to any international presence on the Temple Mount ... Any such intervention would violate the decades long status quo,” said Danon, adding that the status quo was the best way “to keep stability in the region.”
Danon held up a diagram entitled “How to Stab a Jew,” suggesting it was the kind of thing being taught to Palestinian children. According to the Middle East Research Institute, the image Danon displayed was taken from social media.
Palestinian U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour has said he wanted the council to consider deploying an international force at al-Aqsa mosque to protect Palestinian worshippers.
“It is the responsibility of the United Nations and the international community and Security Council to provide protection for our people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem,” Mansour told the council.
Palestinians set fire to a Jewish shrine in the occupied West Bank and an attacker wearing a vest with the word “press” stabbed an Israeli soldier on Friday as tensions ran high after more than two weeks of violence.
The meeting of the 15-member Security Council was not expected to produce any immediate action.
Jordan has custodianship of the al-Aqsa compound. This was recognized in the 1994 peace treaty with Israel but dates back to 1924 when Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem granted custodianship to King Abdullah’s great grandfather.
The area, also home to the Dome of the Rock, is known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount.
A tinder-box for Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest in Judaism. Jordanian civil servants and police oversee the site and allow Jews to visit, but not to pray there.
Jordan’s U.N. Ambassador Dina Kawar said she was not pushing for a new international force though she said Israeli security forces should stay away from al-Aqsa.
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power condemned the ongoing violence, saying there was growing frustration among Israelis and Palestinians as prospects for peace diminished.
“We continue to support Israel’s right to defend its citizens,” Power said, adding that Washington was concerned about increased settler violence against Palestinians.
French Ambassador Francois Delattre said he would circulate a draft Security Council statement that would appeal for calm and restraint, a revival of the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and for maintaining the status quo of al-Aqsa.
Statements by the 15-member council must be agreed unanimously.
Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Toni Reinhold