John Wight is a writer and commentator specializing in geopolitics, UK domestic politics, culture and sport.
The recent closure of the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem by the Israeli government constitutes yet more evidence that peace between Israel and the Palestinians has never been more distant.
The Al-Aqsa mosque, located in Jerusalem’s Old City, is the third holiest site in Islam. It sits within an enclosed compound known as the Noble Sanctuary, which also includes the Dome of the Rock, an Islamic shrine built on the site of the sacred stone which is believed to mark the place from where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. The Dome of the Rock is also believed by Jewish scholars to be the location of the first and second temples, both of which were destroyed – the first by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, the second by the Romans in 70 CE. Within Judaism the entire area, including Al-Aqsa, is known as Temple Mount and is equally as sacred.
The veneration of this holy site by both Jews and Muslims, rather than a source of understanding and mutual respect, is a lightning rod for the deep enmity that exists between both in the context of Israel’s control over the Old City in the aftermath of the Six Day War in 1967. Further compounding the tensions within Jerusalem are Israel’s ongoing illegal settlement expansion in East Jerusalem, encroaching on Palestinian areas and making the prospect of East Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state increasingly impossible.