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'Olmert Offered Jordanian-Saudi Presence in Holy Sites'


Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered the Fatah-PA a deal in which Jordan and Saudi Arabia would participate in running the holy sites in Jerusalem.

According to Channel 10, "a senior source who is Olmert's closest confidante said Wednesday that the Palestinians missed an extraordinary opportunity with Olmert." He said that the Jordanian-Saudi offer was one that no one had made before Olmert. The Fatah-PA, for its part, rejected the offer and said Olmert did not matter anymore.

Livni Declares Victory in Kadima Party Leadership Vote

By VOA News, &

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has declared victory in a contest to lead Israel's ruling Kadima Party.

Exit polls suggest Livni won about 48 percent of the vote in a party leadership election on Wednesday, enough to avoid a run-off. The polls indicate her main rival, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, was second with about 37 percent.

Livni thanked her supporters after the vote and told them that, in her words, "the good guys" won. Official results are expected to be released early Thursday.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert telephoned Livni to congratulate her. He is expected to resign in the coming days to fight corruption allegations. Olmert will remain a caretaker prime minister while the new Kadima leader tries to form a coalition government. If the Kadima leader fails, Israel is likely to call early parliamentary elections.

Representatives of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas expressed hope that Israel's next prime minister would continue peace talks that the two sides resumed last November.

Livni is bidding to become Israel's first female leader since Golda Meir, who served as Israeli prime minister from 1969 to 1974.

As Livni cast her ballot Wednesday, she urged Kadima members to show they are tired of what she called "old-fashioned politics." Livni has earned a reputation as a "Mrs. Clean" in contrast to Olmert and other Israeli leaders who have been tainted by scandal.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is expected to step down from office on Sunday. He will make the announcement at the weekly cabinet meeting and then formally tender his resignation to President Shimon Peres.

The exact date of Olmert's meeting with the president has yet to be set, and may only take place after Peres returns from New York, where he is scheduled to deliver an address at the UN General Assembly.

The Kadima primary elections kicked off in late July after Olmert announced his decision to step down amidst a tidal of corruption allegations and police inquiries.

"I'm just a spectator," Olmert said then of the primary race. "We have some excellent candidates, and I promise whoever is elected my full cooperation." He stressed that the "transfer of power will take place in a responsible and statesmanlike fashion – as I have tried to conduct myself in office."

Olmert's resignation will entail the resignation of the government in its entirety. The responsibility for the next move will be on Peres. After holding consultations with representatives from the various political factions in the Knesset, Peres will be required to task one of the Knesset members with establishing a new government.

Most chances are that individual will be Livni, as chairman-elect of parliament's largest political party. In any event, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is also chairman of the Labor party and Olmert's key coalition ally, cannot be called upon to form a government because he is not an elected member of the Knesset.

The MK tasked with the mission will have 28 days to cobble together a stable government. The president can extend the allotted time by an additional 14 days. If his first choice is unable to deliver a government in time, Peres will then choose another MK, who will also have 28 days.

If the second MK tasked with the job cannot form a government and the Knesset Speaker believes no majority can be reached – the elections will be pushed up and held within 90 days.

If Livni, as party leader can form a coalition, Israel could have a new government in October. If not, an election campaign could take several months. Olmert would remain in office until a new premier is chosen, heading a caretaker government even after he submits his resignation to Peres. The process could extend into 2009.

Sources in the Fatah-PA expressed satisfaction with the result of the TV exit polls Wednesday night. According to Ynet, Fatah-PA officials followed the vote anxiously and were worried by the low voter turnout, just like the Livni camp.

A senior Fatah-PA source said that "even if our formal position is that we work with whoever is elected, it is no secret that working with Livni will be much easier. She knows the material and there is no need to start from scratch with her."

Israel to Assist Muslims Carve Quranic Verses on Temple Mount


After three years of waiting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert quietly has granted permission to the Muslim custodians of the Temple Mount to repair and enhance Quranic verses plastered around Judaism's holiest site, WND has learned.

The approval came as result of the petitioning of the Israeli government by Jordan, which has been solidifying control over the Temple Mount in recent years.

There are more than 4,000 Quranic quotations written in Arabic calligraphy and carved into various Islamic buildings throughout the Temple Mount, including inside and outside the Al Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock. Six hundred of the carved verses are in poor condition, according to the Waqf, the Mount's Muslim custodians.

The Waqf has been asking Israel for permission to repair the Quranic quotation carvings for years now. It even transported to the Israeli port city of Ashdod boxes of European tools and machinery especially made to repair the Temple Mount Quranic verses. The tools have been sitting in Ashdod for three years, according to informed sources.

Following Jordanian intervention, Olmert last week gave the Waqf approval to begin fixing the Quranic quotes, the informed sources told WND.

Jordan controlled areas of eastern Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, from 1948 until Israel recaptured the site in the 1967 Six Day War.

During the period of Jordanian control, Jews were barred from the Western Wall and Temple Mount, and hundreds of synagogues in eastern Jerusalem were destroyed. Jordan constructed a road that stretched across the Mount of Olives, adjacent to the Temple Mount, bulldozing hundreds of Jewish gravestones in the process.

Following the Six Day War, one of the first acts of Moshe Dayan, chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, was to ensure the Jordanian-allied Mufti of Jerusalem, Abd Al Hamid A Saih, the holy site would remain under Islamic custodianship. Dayan later also famously ordered an Israeli flag removed from the Dome of the Rock.

Jordan continues to maintain a major influence over the Temple Mount. Sheik Azzam Khateeb, who was installed in February 2007 as the new manager of the Waqf, is known to be close to the Jordanian monarchy. The previous Waqf manager, Sheik Adnon Husseini, was loyal to Palestinian Authority although toward the end of his rein, he seemed to be warming to Jordan.

In a gesture to Jordan, in January 2006, Israel granted Jordan permission to replace the main podium in the Al Aqsa Mosque from which Islamic preachers deliver their sermons. The podium, which was partially funded by Saudi Arabia, is considered one of the most important stands in the Muslim world. Muslims now believe it marks the "exact spot" Muhammad went up to heaven to receive revelations from Allah.

The new stand bears the emblem of the Jordanian kingdom. It replaced a 1,000-year-old podium believed to have been shipped to Jerusalem by the Islamic conqueror Saladin. That stand was destroyed in 1969, when an Australian tourist set fire to the Al Aqsa Mosque.

In recent years, Jordan quietly has been purchasing real estate surrounding the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in hopes of gaining more control over the area accessing the holy site, according to Palestinian and Israeli officials speaking to WND.

The officials disclosed the Jordanian kingdom in 2006 and 2007 used shell companies to purchase several apartments and shops located at key peripheral sections of the Temple Mount. The shell companies at times presented themselves as acting on behalf of the Waqf custodians of the Temple Mount, according to information obtained.

The officials said Jordan also set up a commission to use the shell companies to petition mostly Arab landowners adjacent to eastern sections of the Temple Mount to sell their properties. They said profits from sales at any purchased shops would be reinvested to buy more real estate near the Mount and in eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods.

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism. The First Jewish Temple was built there by King Solomon in the 10th century BCE. It was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The Second Temple was rebuilt in 515 BCE after Jerusalem was freed from Babylonian captivity. That temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire in CE 70. Each Temple stood for a period of about four centuries.

The Jewish Temple was the center of religious Jewish worship. It housed the Holy of Holies, which contained the Ark of the Covenant and was said to be the area upon which God's shechina or "presence" dwelt. All Jewish holidays centered on worship at the Temple. The Jewish Temple served as the primary location for the offering of sacrifices and was the main gathering place for the Jewish people.

According to the Talmud, the world was created from the foundation stone of the Temple Mount. The site is believed to be the biblical Mount Moriah, the location where Abraham fulfilled God's test to see if he would be willing to sacrifice his son Isaac.

Jewish tradition holds Mashiach or the Jewish Messiah will return and rebuild the third and final Temple on the Mount in Jerusalem.

The Kotel, or Western Wall, is the one part of the Temple Mount that survived the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans and stands today in Jerusalem.

Throughout all notorious Jewish exiles, thorough documentation shows the Jews never gave up their hope of returning to Jerusalem and re-establishing their Temple. To this day Jews worldwide pray facing the Western Wall, while Muslims turn their backs away from the Temple Mount and pray toward Mecca.

The Al Aqsa Mosque was constructed around CE 709 to serve as a shrine near another shrine, the Dome of the Rock, which was built by an Islamic caliph.

About 100 years ago, Al Aqsa in Jerusalem became associated with the place Muslims came to believe Muhammad ascended to heaven. Jerusalem, however, is not mentioned in the Quran.

Islamic tradition states Muhammad took a journey in a single night from "a sacred mosque" – believed to be in Mecca in southern Saudi Arabia – to "the farthest mosque," and from a rock there ascended to heaven to receive revelations from Allah that became part of the Quran.

Palestinians today claim exclusivity over the Temple Mount and Palestinian leaders routinely deny Jewish historic connection to the site, but historically, Muslims did not claim the Al Aqsa Mosque as their third holiest site and admitted the Jewish Temples existed.

According to research by Israeli author Shmuel Berkovits, Islam previously disregarded Jerusalem. He points out in his book "How Dreadful Is this Place!" that Muhammad was said to loathe Jerusalem and what it stood for. Berkovits wrote that Muhammad made a point of eliminating pagan sites of worship, and sanctifying only one place – the Kaaba in Mecca – to signify the unity of God.

As late as the 14th century, Islamic scholar Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyya, whose writings influenced the Wahhabi movement in Arabia, ruled that sacred Islamic sites are to be found only in the Arabian Peninsula, and that "in Jerusalem, there is not a place one calls sacred, and the same holds true for the tombs of Hebron."

It wasn't until the late 19th century – incidentally when Jews started immigrating to Palestine – that some Muslim scholars began claiming Muhammad tied his horse to the Western Wall and associated Muhammad's purported night journey with the Temple Mount.

A guide to the Temple Mount by the Supreme Muslim Council in Jerusalem published in 1925 listed the Mount as the site of Solomon's Temple. The Temple Institute acquired a copy of the official 1925 "Guide Book to Al-Haram Al-Sharif," which states on page 4, "Its identity with the site of Solomon's Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to universal belief, on which 'David built there an altar unto the Lord.'"

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