With the increasing number of Israeli incursions at Al-Aqsa Mosque by settlers and soldiers, we need to know how the so-called “Abraham Accords” pose a threat to Jerusalem in general and the mosque in particular. The accords were signed by the UAE and Bahrain to formalise the normalisation of their relations with Israel on 15 September.
When the normalisation process was announced a month earlier, a joint statement was issued by the US, UAE and Israel. It said that the latter two states would “continue their efforts… to achieve a just, comprehensive and enduring resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to enable the Palestinian people to realise their full potential.” The framework for this was as set out in the “Vision for Peace”, also known as the deal of the century. “All Muslims who come in peace may visit and pray at Al Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem’s other holy sites will remain open for peaceful worshippers of all faiths,” they added.
A careful reading of the text of the Abraham Accords suggests that it gives legitimacy to the incursions by armed Jewish settlers in Al-Aqsa Mosque, and even their performance of religious rituals therein, because the agreement allows access to “peaceful worshippers of all faiths”, and not just Muslims. This, remember, is access to a Muslim place of worship, as long as people “come in peace”.
This condition gives the Israeli occupation authorities a lot of room to manoeuvre in order to prevent “troublemakers” from entering Al-Aqsa. In Israeli eyes, “troublemakers” are those who adopt the Islamic narrative related to Al-Aqsa and are willing to defend it as the first Qibla (direction of prayer for Muslims), and a key location for Prophet Muhammad’s sacred Night Journey, peace be upon him. They also define troublemakers as anyone who thinks of challenging those who enter Al-Aqsa fully armed and backed by armed police and soldiers, whether they intend to storm into the sanctuary, divide it spatially as well as temporally, and threaten to destabilise it with excavations or anything else.
The agreement gives the occupation a green light to continue to arrest, deport, abuse and fine anyone who obstructs its efforts to Judaise Islam’s third holiest site. Even Al-Aqsa guards and employees are deemed not to “come in peace”.
It also more or less redefines Al-Aqsa and limits it to Al-Qibli Mosque with its lead dome at the southern edge of the sanctuary, leaving the courtyards as public squares open to anyone and everyone who is not an integral part of Al-Aqsa. This is the core claim upon which Israel bases its efforts to divide the mosque and allow settlers to violate its sanctity on an almost daily basis. Having normalised relations with the UAE and Bahrain (and now Sudan and Morocco as well), the Israelis believe that they now have Islamic cover for their machinations.
At the same time, the signatories of the Abraham Accords ignore the Judaisation measures already implemented by Israel to undermine the historic status quo of Al-Aqsa, impose its full sovereignty over the sanctuary, and exclude the Islamic endowment ministries from the exclusive administration of its affairs. Ignoring this amounts to tacit, if not overt, acceptance of such Israeli measures.
It is important to return to the political framework that the signatories have adopted for their normalisation, which is Donald Trump’s vision for “peace”. The deal of the century is the basis of this, so what does it say about Al-Aqsa?
“The State of Israel is to be commended for safeguarding the religious sites of all and maintaining a religious status quo,” it claims. “Given this commendable record for more than half a century, as well as the extreme sensitivity regarding some of Jerusalem’s holy sites, we believe that this practice should remain, and that all of Jerusalem’s holy sites should be subject to the same governance regimes that exist today. In particular the status quo at the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif [Al-Aqsa] should continue uninterrupted. Jerusalem’s holy sites should remain open and available for peaceful worshippers and tourists of all faiths. People of every faith should be permitted to pray on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, in a manner that is fully respectful to their religion, taking into account the times of each religion’s prayers and holidays, as well as other religious factors.”
In short, the deal of the century, which is the reference point for the Abraham Accords regarding the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, stipulates the imposition of full Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa, legalises Jewish incursions in Al-Aqsa and allows non-Muslim acts of worship therein. It also allows for Arabs and Muslims from normalised states to enter Al-Aqsa under the aforementioned political and administrative arrangements, while preventing “non-peaceful” Palestinians and others who reject Israel’s policies in Al-Aqsa from entering.
It is no exaggeration to describe the Abraham Accords as the most dangerous of political agreements which pose a threat to Al-Aqsa Mosque, in which Arab or Muslim states are participating. This presents the Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims who reject normalisation with the challenge of developing the means to counter this latest attack on Al-Aqsa Mosque. This is serious, because the attack has US support and Arab complicity with the Israeli occupation against the Palestinian, Arab and Islamic constants related to the Noble Sanctuary.
This article first appeared in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre on 23 December 2020
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.