UN Security Council emphasizes status quo Al Aqsa, takes no action


Members of the United Nations Security Council expressed concern and stressed the need to maintain the status quo on the grounds of the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, but did not commit to any action days after Israel’s new far-right security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, made a controversial visit to the site, which Palestinian leaders called “an unprecedented provocation.”

The decades-old status quo on the grounds of the Al Aqsa Mosque only allows Muslim worship at the site, which is Islam’s third holiest site after Mecca and Medina.

But the site is also revered by Jews, who call it the Temple Mount. Israel’s far-right groups have long sought to change the status quo and allow Jewish prayer at the site. The far right has also called for a Jewish temple to be built in place of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour on Thursday urged the Security Council to take action against Israel over Ben-Gvir’s provocative actions. Israel’s new security minister is known for his racist incitement against Arabs, his opposition to the Palestinian state and leading settler raids on Al Aqsa Mosque and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem.

“Which red line must Israel cross before the Security Council finally says enough is enough?” Mansour asked the 15-member council, accusing Israel of “absolute contempt.”

Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor James Bays, reporting from UN headquarters in New York, said members of the Security Council had expressed concern about the situation in the Al Aqsa compound and the dangers of escalation “but their words were measured and limited , with little direct criticism of Israel.”.

The Palestinian ambassador, Bays said, expressed his displeasure at the council’s inaction and warned the council that the situation could turn into an uprising.

“All 15 members of the Security Council reiterated, as always, their commitment to a two-state solution. However, in recent days, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his new government supports the continuation of settlements in Palestinian land, further undermining that internationally desired outcome,” Bays said.

A senior UN political affairs official, Khaled Khiari, told the council meeting it was the first visit to the site by an Israeli minister since 2017.

“Although the visit was not accompanied or followed by violence, it is seen as particularly inflammatory given Mr Ben-Gvir’s previous advocacy for changes in the status quo,” he said.

Ben-Gvir once called for an end to the ban on Jewish prayer at the site, but he’s been noncommittal on the matter since joining Netanyahu. Other members of Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power Party are still calling for such a move.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN called the Security Council meeting “pathetic” and “absurd”.

Before the session, the Israeli representative, Gilad Erdan. told reporters there was “absolutely no reason” to hold the meeting.

“Holding a Security Council session on a non-event is really absurd,” he said.

Erdan said Ben-Gvir’s visit was “in line with the status quo and whoever claims otherwise is only fueling the situation”.

“To claim that this short and fully legitimate visit should lead to an emergency session of the Security Council is pathetic,” he said.

Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, which have peace treaties with Israel, condemned what they called Ben-Gvir’s “storming” of Al-Aqsa.

Amman summoned the Israeli ambassador and said the visit violated international law and “the historical and legal status quo in Jerusalem.”

Saudi Arabia, with which Netanyahu wants to sign a peace deal, also criticized Ben-Gvir. Turkey, which recently ended a long-running diplomatic split with Israel, also condemned the visit as “provocative”.

The United States, which is committed to a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, said it was “concerned about unilateral acts that exacerbate tensions or undermine the viability of a two-state solution,” the U.S. Deputy UN said. Ambassador, Robert Wood, told the council Thursday.

“We note that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s platform of government calls for the status quo to be maintained with regard to the holy sites. We expect the government of Israel to honor that commitment,” Wood said.

The UN Security Council has passed several resolutions over the years on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and supports the two-state solution for peace in the Middle East.

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