The Israeli cabinet held its weekly meeting yesterday in a tunnel underneath Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, local media have reported. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the meeting was held in the tunnel "to mark the liberation and unification of Jerusalem." He described the tunnel as being underneath the Western Wall, known to Palestinians and Muslims as the Buraq Wall.
Next month marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 war during which Israel took control of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Posting pictures of the cabinet meeting on his Twitter account, Netanyahu said that "important decisions" would be taken by the government.
"The budgets allocated for the development of Jerusalem will be increased," he announced. Such "development" will include a cable car and several other projects in the Old City. The right-wing leader claimed:
The Western Wall [sic] is the beating heart of the Jewish people who returned back to it after thousands of years upon building their united capital
This is a highly contentious claim. The 1937 report by the British government's Peel Commission determined among other things that ownership of the wall – part of the boundary of the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa – lies with the Palestinians. Not surprisingly, then, the Palestinian factions and Palestinian Authority condemned the Israeli cabinet's action. The PA's Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat described it as a "provocative" meeting.
Meanwhile, the Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas said that this is a "dangerous development" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It warned that such "provocation" could prompt a "strong response" from resistance groups.
According to the Head of the Supreme Islamic Committee in Jerusalem, Shaikh Ekrema Sabri, the Israelis are "distorting" the facts. "The Israeli occupation does not own any part of Al-Buraq Wall," he told Arabi21.com. "Through its military power, it wants to prove that it has the right to this holy site. The oppressive power that the occupation has does not give it any such right."
The Deputy Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Shaikh Kamal Al-Khatib, told Arabi21.com that this is what happens when Netanyahu does not hear any Islamic, Arabic or Palestinian voice in opposition. "When nobody is telling him that he is a thief and aggressor, and this land is not his, he continues and increases his theft," he explained.
His assurance that nobody is ready to oppose his Judaisation of Jerusalem stems from the meeting in Riyadh with Donald Trump, he claimed. "When Trump went from his meeting with Arab leaders to occupied Jerusalem and a prayer at the Buraq Wall," Shaikh Kamal pointed out, "he sent a strong message to Netanyahu that he can do what he wants."