TEL AVIV – A senior Palestinian official said Saturday that the Western Wall is a Jewish holy site and must remain under Jewish sovereignty under any future peace agreement, but the Temple Mount should not.
In an interview with Israeli Channel 2’s Meet the Press, Fatah Central Committee member Jibril Rajoub also credited President Donald Trump for presenting an opportunity for peace.
“[Trump] went to the Western Wall, which we understand is a holy place to the Jews. In the end, it must remain under Jewish sovereignty. We have no argument about that. This is a Jewish holy place,” said Rajoub in comments that mark a departure from the Palestinian leadership’s official stance that all of the Old City is occupied Palestinian territory, as reaffirmed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas two weeks ago when he referred to Trump’s stop at the Western Wall as a visit to “occupied east Jerusalem.”
“He [Trump] comes with clear intentions for an ultimate deal to end the suffering of both peoples. I think this is an unprecedented imitative,” said the Fatah Central Committee member, who is also the head of the Palestinian Football Association and the Olympic Committee.
He added that Trump “is completely different from all the others.”
Rajoub continued by saying that the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, must be handed over to the Palestinians in any future deal.
“The Temple Mount is ours, it’s not yours, you need to stop talking about it,” Rajoub said. “The status quo since 1967, which was set by Moshe Dayan, I think we both need to aim for that,” he said, referring to an arrangement made by then-Defense Minister Dayan after the Six Day War that stipulated the Temple Mount would remain under the auspices of the Islamic Waqf. The arrangement, which is in place until today, allows Jews to visit the site at certain hours but they are forbidden from praying there.
Abbas, Rajoub said, was “the only one with the vision and the balls to reach a deal.”
“You have a partner on the Palestinian side for a historic compromise between two peoples. … Two states for two peoples,” he said, addressing another key Israeli complaint, that the Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestinian Authority has often said that the Palestinians have recognized Israel, but not as a Jewish state because that would prejudice the rights of Arab Israelis.
He then addressed the Israeli public.
“We have to do it today, not tomorrow,” Rajoub said. “I say to the Israelis, let’s do business, let’s flip the tape, let’s pave the way forward. … We recognize your right to your state, to build it and live in it in peace and in security, but in the 1967 borders,” he said.
Rajoub was asked about the continued incitement to terror. “We are under occupation, what do you expect?” he said.
“Say thank God that now with Trump there is hope that your occupation will end. What do you expect from the people? That we will educate our children about brotherhood between them and the occupation? I am not cheating anyone, there is now hope.”
Rajoub himself has in the past stated that he is proud he served time in an Israeli jail for lobbing a grenade at a bus full of IDF soldiers in 1970.
On many occasions he has glorified violence and incited Palestinians, including lauding recent terror attacks as “individual acts of bravery” and noting that “he is proud” of the perpetrators. He has also compared Israeli Jews to Satan. In February 2014 he called for the abduction of Israelis. Later that year three Israeli teenagers, Gilad Shaer, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach, were kidnapped and murdered. Rajoub subsequently congratulated Hamas for carrying out the triple attack. He was quoted saying, “If we had a nuke, we’d have used it [against Israel] this very morning.”