January 29, 2020
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. proposal for Israeli-Palestinian peace does not call for imposing any change to prayer arrangements around a key Jerusalem mosque compound which was also the site of ancient Jewish temples, a U.S. official said on Wednesday.
The Al-Aqsa mosque compound, also known as the Temple Mount, has been often been a flashpoint of violence. Under a “status quo” agreement also involving neighboring Jordan, Jewish prayer is prevented there – a source of frustration for some Israelis.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s peace plan, whose unveiling on Tuesday was immediately welcomed by Israel and excoriated by the Palestinians, proposed that “people of every faith should be permitted to pray” at the disputed site in Jerusalem’s Old City.
But the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, on Wednesday described the statement as aspirational, for now.
“The status quo, in the manner that it is observed today, will continue, absent an agreement to the contrary. There is nothing in the plan that would impose any alteration in the status quo that is not subject to the agreement of all the parties,” Friedman told reporters in a conference call.
“Having said that, as we point out, we would like the region to be more open and free with regard to the exercise of freedom of religion,” he said, suggesting such a situation might eventually be instituted at the Jerusalem site and elsewhere.
(Writing by Dan Williams; editing by Jonathan Oatis)