US and French concern over Israeli aggression in Jerusalem after Ben-Gvir storming
The French and US governments have expressed their "deep concern" at Israel’s provocative actions and "inflammatory rhetoric" in Jerusalem and across the West Bank in recent days and months.
Israel's extreme-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir stormed Jerusalem’s sacred Al-Aqsa mosque compound early on Sunday, accompanied by 30 members of the army and intelligence personnel.
Ben-Gvir reportedly thanked Israeli forces for "proving who's in charge in Jerusalem" during his 15-minute incursion of the Al-Aqsa compound, the third-holiest site in Islam.
Now even Israel's closest ally the US appears to be losing patience with the actions of the minister, one of several extreme-right politicians in government.
"We are… concerned by today's provocative visit to the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif in Jerusalem and the accompanying inflammatory rhetoric," said the US State Department on Sunday.
France, another country viewed as a close friend of Israel, also criticised the move that breaks a long-standing agreement with Jordan to maintain custodianship over the holy sites and forbid non-Muslim prayers at Al-Aqsa.
"France reiterates the need to maintain the historical status quo over holy sites in Jerusalem," responded the French foreign ministry in a statement on Monday.
Israel's extremist coalition held a cabinet meeting on Sunday deep underneath Al-Aqsa Mosque in a tunnel decked with Israeli flags.
The tunnel goes underneath Al-Buraq Wall (the "Western Wall"), directly under the mosque itself.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that the cabinet meeting was in response to Palestinian PM Mahmoud Abbas’ denial of Jewish roots to Jerusalem.
"A few days ago, Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] said that the Jewish people do not have links to Jerusalem and Al-Haram, therefore, I am telling him that we are holding our meetings today in the depth of Jerusalem and its Haram," Netanyahu said.
Such forthright statements against the Israeli government are rare from both the US and France.
The US has been increasingly critical of the new far-right dominated Netanyahu coalition, which it says continues to act "inconsistently with commitments made to the Biden administration".
Both Washington and Paris publicly back the two-state solution, although US diplomats and officials have tacitly acknowledged that the prospect of a Palestinian state along the lines of the Oslo accords is no longer a reality.