Middle East Eye reports:
An Israeli official said on Monday that Israel and the United Arab Emirates had set an agenda to discuss bringing thousands of visitors from the Gulf to the occupied Old City of East Jerusalem, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
“Jerusalem will host between 100,000 and 250,000 Muslim tourists a year; they dream of visiting Al-Aqsa,” Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Fleur Hassan-Nahoum told newspaper Israel Hayom.
Hassan-Nahoum, who travelled to the Emirates last week, said that “just as we developed Christian tourism, we plan to work to develop Muslim tourism”. “There is a huge turnaround in the works.”
According to a longstanding joint guardianship agreement between Israel and Jordan, Amman retains control over Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem and manages the religious endowment – or Waqf – that administers the Al-Aqsa compound.
Hayel Daoud, the former Jordanian minister of endowments and religious affairs, told Middle East Eye that Jordanian authorities were “not interested nor aware nor part of these visits’ coordination”. “In principle, we support every Arab and Muslim visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque, to keep it alive with worshippers,” Daoud said. “But visits that coordinate with the (Israeli) occupation authorities and are based upon signed deals are not in the interests of Al-Aqsa or the Palestinian people.”