Despite historic Israeli “gestures” designed to make travel to the Temple Mount much easier for Arabs from Judea and Samaria during Ramadan, top officials in the Palestinian Authority have been calling for PA Arabs to boycott the Al-Aqsa (Dome of the Rock) Mosque – for fear that Arabs will spend money while they are there, enhancing the Israeli economy.
Mahmoud Abbas’s cabinet will meet later Wednesday to make a final decision on whether or not to go through with the boycott, according to Yediot Aharonot.
In recent years, Israel has gone out of its way to make concessions to PA Arabs, enabling as many as possible to visit the Mosque, located on the Temple Mount, the historic site of the Jewish Temple, which predated the Mosque by over 1,000 years. Concessions were suspended last year for Ramadan, when PA Arabs throng to the Mosque, because of the IDF’s search for three missing Israeli teens who were murdered by PA Arabs near Hevron – but the concessions are back in full force this year.
Among the concessions: Enabling Arab men aged over 40 and all Arab women in Judea-Samaria to have access to the Mount; 800 Arab residents of Gaza will also be allowed in for Friday prayers. Another 500 Arabs in Judea-Samaria will be let into Gaza, 300 Palestinian Arabs living abroad will be allowed into Gaza to visit family, and 500 Arab residents of Judea-Samaria will be permitted to fly from Ben-Gurion International Airport.
To qualify for these concessions, PA Arabs need to register with the Civil Authority – but thousands who tried to do so at the joint Israel-PA security offices near Arab cities were turned away by PA officials. Members of the Fatah ruling council discussed the matter Tuesday.
According to a PA official who spoke to Israeli media, the decision is not necessarily only anti-Israel. As Arabs throng to Jerusalem, they shop at the Arab shuk and even at stores in Jewish areas of the city; the Mamilla Mall, for example, which is right next to the Old City, is very popular with Arabs. As a result, Arab shopkeepers in PA-controlled cities complain that business falls sharply during Ramadan.
In addition, the official said, “we cannot accept that the Israeli economy will benefit from the Palestinians, when the whole world is calling for a boycott of Israel.”