UN Security Council stresses Al Aqsa status quo, takes no action | United Nations News
United Nations Security Council members expressed concern and stressed the need to maintain the status quo at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, but did not commit days after the controversial visit by Israel’s new far-right Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir Action the side of what Palestinian leaders described as “an unprecedented provocation.”
The decades-old status quo on the grounds of Al-Aqsa Mosque allows only Muslim worship at this site, which is Islam’s third holiest 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 tried to change the status quo and allow Jewish prayer on the ground. The extreme 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 Palestinian statehood and for leading settler raids on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem.
“What red line does Israel have to cross for the Security Council to finally say enough is enough?” Mansour asked the 15-member council, accusing Israel of showing “absolute contempt.”
Al Jazeera diplomatic editor James Bays reported from the UN headquarters in New York that Security Council members had expressed their concerns about the situation at Al-Aqsa’s compound and the dangers of an escalation, “but their Words were measured and limited, with little direct criticism of Israel”.
The Palestinian ambassador, Bays said, expressed his dismay that the council was doing nothing and warned the council that the situation could escalate into an uprising.
“As always, all 15 members of the Security Council reaffirmed their commitment to a two-state solution. In recent days, however, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his new government supports continued settlement of Palestinian land, further undermining this internationally desired outcome,” Bays said.
A senior UN political affairs official, Khaled Khiari, told the council meeting it was the first visit by an Israeli cabinet minister to the site since 2017.
“While the visit was not accompanied or followed by violence, it is viewed as particularly inflammatory given Mr Ben-Gvir’s past 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 has been non-committal on the issue since joining Netanyahu. Other members of Ben-Gvir’s Jewish power party still advocate such a move.
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations called the Security Council meeting “pathetic” and “absurd”.
Before the meeting, the Israeli representative Gilad Erdan. told reporters there was “absolutely no reason” for the meeting to be held.
“Holding a Security Council meeting on a non-event is really absurd,” he said.
Erdan said Ben-Gvir’s visit was “in line with the status quo and anyone who says otherwise is only fueling the situation.”
“To suggest that this brief and perfectly legitimate visit should lead to an emergency Security Council meeting 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, saying the visit violated international law and “the historical and legal status quo in Jerusalem.”
Ben-Gvir also criticized Saudi Arabia, with whom Netanyahu wants to forge a peace agreement. Turkey, which recently ended a longstanding diplomatic row with Israel, also condemned the visit as “provocative”.
The United States, which is pushing for a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, said it was “concerned by any unilateral actions that heighten tensions or undermine the viability of a two-state solution,” so Deputy US Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Robert Wood told the council on Thursday.
“We note that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s platform of government calls for the preservation of the status quo regarding the holy sites. We expect the Israeli government to honor that commitment,” Wood said.
The UN Security Council has passed several resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the years and supports the two-state solution for peace in the Middle East.