Palestinians Advise Obama Temple Mount Visit

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- The Palestinian Authority and Muslim religious leaders want President Obama to coordinate any visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City with Palestinian or Jordanian officials and not through Israel, reports are saying. 

Though it's not clear Obama plans to visit the Temple Mount, they want Muslims and not Jews to be perceived as in charge of the site.

The Temple Mount that now hosts the Dome of the Rock and al-Aksa Mosque is the site of the First and Second Jewish Temples, destroyed in 585 BC and 70 AD, respectively.

Since Israel re-united Jerusalem under its sovereignty in 1967, the nation has maintained overall security control on the contested site while allowing the Islamic religious authorities to handle religious affairs there. 

Muslim Prayer Only 

Neither Jews nor Christians are allowed to pray on the Temple Mount. And many Arab and Muslim leaders deny any Jewish connection to it.

In July 2008, then-Sen. Obama visited the Western Wall as a candidate for president, where he prayed at Judaism's holiest site.

Political and religious leaders agreed it would be better for the president not to visit the Temple Mount, though they anticipate he may want to, Israel Today reported earlier this week.

But Palestinian and Muslim religious leaders are offering suggestions to President Obama during his upcoming visit to Israel.

According to the report, the P.A. minister of Jerusalem affairs, Hatem Abdel Qadar, advised Obama to confirm his visit with the Palestinian Authority or Jordan, not with Israeli officials, though Israel is responsible for security on the Temple Mount.

Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, head of the Waqf, the Islamic trust overseeing the day-to-day administration of the area, suggested the president enter through the Lion's Gate used by Muslims rather than the Mughrabi Gate, the only entrance used by non-Muslim visitors, which is staffed by Israeli security personnel. Israel Police also enter the Temple Mount via the Mughrabi Gate when it's necessary to restore calm there.

Sabri said using the Lion's Gate will help affirm Muslim control over the Temple Mount. He also advised Obama not to bring any Israelis with him.

Welcome to Enter al-Aksa Mosque

Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, said the president would be welcome to enter the al-Aksa mosque on the Temple Mount. Salah has served prison time in the past for incitement to violence against the State of Israel. 

"The U.S. president is likely to visit the Aksa mosque, but we should affirm our position… with the constants of the Muslim and Arab nations and the Palestinian people as well as with the issue of Jerusalem and the Aksa mosque," the report quoted Salah.

A tentative itinerary for Obama's first visit to Israel as president did not include the Temple Mount, though it does include visits to Mount Herzl, Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum, the Israel Museum, and the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed.

From 1948-1967 the area was under Jordanian rule. After destroying all the synagogues in the Old City's Jewish Quarter, the Jordanians forbad Jews to pray at the Western Wall, the only remaining vestige of the First and Second Temples, which served as a retaining wall during Temple times. The area was strewn with rubble and garbage.

The 1967 Six Day War ended the Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and reunited Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty.

Israel allowed the Waqf to continue religious administrative tasks on the Temple Mount, while retaining security control over the area.

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