Written by Memri
Ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Jerusalem on March 20-21, 2013, rumors were spread that he was planning to visit the Western Wall and Al-Aqsa mosque. Though these rumors received no confirmation from American or Israeli sources, Palestinian officials and clerics – from the PA, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and even from the Islamic Movement in Israel – warned Obama not to visit the Western Wall or Al-Aqsa Mosque with Israeli escort, on the grounds that this would constitute support for Israel's occupation of Jerusalem and a perpetuation of this occupation.
The officials stressed that Jerusalem is an occupied Palestinian Arab city, and that Al-Aqsa mosque and the Western Wall, which they call the Wall of Al-Buraq, are Islamic waqf belonging to the Muslims alone, the Jews having no rights to them whatsoever.
The officials argued that, if Obama wishes to visit these places, the visit must take place under the sponsorship and responsibility of the Islamic Waqf in Jerusalem, and must affirm Jerusalem's status as an occupied city and the Palestinian sovereignty over Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa. Otherwise, there would be "grave consequences."
Especially harsh was the response of Hamas, which warned that, if Obama visited Al-Aqsa with an Israeli escort, the movement would call upon the Palestinians to launch a battle against the U.S. and its interests in the region. Hamas official Mushir Al-Masri said that the visit would constitute a declaration of war on the Muslims, and an article in Hamas's daily Al-Risala called on Palestinians to oppose the visit by force, even at the cost of injuries and fatalities, and to clash with the Israeli security forces before the visit. An Islamic Jihad official urged the Palestinians to bar Obama from entering the mosque and to pelt him and his entourage with shoes and rotten eggs.
The following are excerpts from statements by Palestinian officials on this matter.
The Saudi Al-Sharq daily reported, citing "senior Palestinian sources," that Palestinian President Mahmoud 'Abbas issued an official statement expressing the Palestinians' objection to an Obama visit under the Israeli aegis. Palestinian sources told Al-Sharq that the White House did not respond to this, but only asked the PA not to impede Obama's visit. 
In response to reports about Obama's possible visit to Al-Aqsa, three Palestinian officials – Supreme Muslim Council head and Al-Aqsa preacher Akrameh Sabri; PA Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Hatem 'Abd Al-Qader, and the head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Raed Salah – held a press conference in Jerusalem on February 23, 2013 in which they set conditions for Obama's visit. A communiqué they issued after the press conference stated: "We, the national and Islamic forces in Jerusalem and its environs, welcome [Obama's] visit to Al-Aqsa, providing that its goal is to examine from up close the tragic [situation] of this mosque under the Israeli occupation; that the Islamic Waqf in Jerusalem sponsors the visit in its entirety and is responsible for it; and that no representative of the Israeli occupation accompanies [the U.S. President]... We stress to the U.S. President that Al-Aqsa mosque has been under Israeli occupation since 1967... and that it is groaning under the attacks of the [Israeli] settlers, who defile it on a daily basis.
"We emphasize that Al-Aqsa belongs to the Muslims alone, and that others have no rights in it. The soil [on which it stands], the space around it and the ground [beneath it] are Muslim waqf [belonging] to the Muslims throughout the world, and it is part of our Muslim faith and of our national rights. We [also] emphasize that the Wall of Al-Buraq [i.e., the Western Wall], which is an integral part of Al-Aqsa and [likewise] belongs to the Muslims alone, is buckling under the Israeli occupation that has turned it into a Jewish place of worship... Occupied Jerusalem, which the occupation is attempting to Judaize by seizing its land, destroying its houses and imposing a policy of ethnic cleansing upon its residents, needs someone who will remove the occupation from it, not someone who will consolidate [the occupation] or support it.
"Honorable Mr. President, in light of the deceptive declarations issued by the Israeli occupation, we warn against any position that implies the Jews have rights over Al-Aqsa, the Al-Buraq Wall or occupied Jerusalem. We stress that, sooner or later, Jerusalem and its pearl, the Al-Aqsa mosque, will return to the bosom of Islam, the Arabs and the Palestinians."
Al-Aqsa preacher Sheikh 'Akrameh Sabri said at the press conference: "Any visitor is welcome to Al-Aqsa, as long as he follows the regulations of the Islamic Waqf, chiefly [the regulation that requires visitors] to enter through Lions Gate, not through Mughrabi Gate, so as to affirm the Muslim sovereignty [over Al-Aqsa]." PA Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Hatem 'Abd Al-Qader added: "What interests us in [Obama's] visit to Jerusalem or Al-Aqsa is to affirm that [Jerusalem] is an Arab city... Israel's actions do not give it any political or legal rights over Jerusalem or Al-Aqsa. We welcome Obama's visit to Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa, but only if this visit affirms that Jerusalem is an occupied city, that Al-Aqsa is occupied and that sovereignty over Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa [belongs to the] Palestinians, [both] Muslim and Christian. Generally speaking, Obama's visit to Al-Aqsa, should it take place, must be under the sovereignty and supervision of the Islamic Waqf in Jerusalem." In a statement to the Saudi daily Al-Sharq, 'Abd Al-Qader warned that an Obama visit attended by Israelis would result in disaster, and that the intensity of the Palestinian anger, and its consequences, could not be foreseen.
From right to left: Raed Salah, Hatem 'Abd Al-Qader and 'Akrameh Sabri at the press conference
Sheikh Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, said at the press conference: "We, the residents of Jerusalem and its environs, speak for one billion and 600 million Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians... We will not let Obama visit the Al-Buraq Wall attended by any representative of the Israeli occupation, no matter what the name and title [of this representative] are. The presence of any [representative of] occupying Israel will necessarily be understood as a perpetuation of the non-valid Israeli occupation of the Al-Buraq Wall, a perpetuation of the Israeli occupation's usurpation, which has been going on since 1967... and a perpetuation of Israel's non-valid [claim that it has a] right to the Al-Buraq Wall. Therefore, [the visit would be] an act of hostility towards the Muslim nation, the Arab world and the Palestinian people... A position that endorses the Israeli occupation's illegitimate [claim that it has a] right over [even] one square meter of Jerusalem or even one brick of the Al-Aqsa mosque is a great disaster...
"One day soon we will hold a press conference and make an announcement that will gladden every man, every Muslim and every Arab and Palestinian in the world – namely that the Israeli occupation has ended and Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa have returned to the bosom of the Muslim nation, the Arab world and the Palestinian people."
In an official statement, Hamas said that Obama's planned visit Al-Aqsa would be "a great and unprecedented danger not only to Al-Aqsa but to Jerusalem" and "a political disaster that the Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims must not remain silent over." It warned the U.S. against capitulating "to the Zionists' desire to perpetuate their hegemony in Jerusalem," and urged Obama to cancel the visit, since it would be "the most severe [move] in the history of the political relations [between Obama and the Palestinians] and a dangerous [show of] bias towards the Israeli and Jewish side." Hamas urged "the Arab countries, headed by Egypt," to "oppose the visit by every possible means," and the Palestinians to "launch a decisive battle against the occupation and against the U.S. and its interests in the region, should the visit take place under the aegis of the occupation." Hamas also called upon the Arab and Muslim masses "to prepare to defend the last bastion of the nation's honor – the Al-Aqsa mosque."
Hamas official Mushir Al-Masri called Obama's visit "a declaration of war on the Arab and Muslim nation and a provocation of the nation's feelings." Palestinian Islamic Jihad official Khaled Al-Batsh urged the Palestinian people to prevent Obama from entering the mosque escorted by Israeli guards and advised them to "pelt him with shoes." 
Mustafa Sawwaf, a columnist for the Hamas daily Al-Risala, called on the Palestinian masses to deter Obama from visiting Al-Aqsa by coming to the mosque in the days before the visit and clashing with the Israeli security forces there – even if this results in fatalities. He wrote that Obama was a criminal and would defile Al-Aqsa, just as former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon did when he visited the mosque in 2001, and urged the Palestinians to pelt him with shoes and eggs should he arrive: "Obama's entering Al-Aqsa mosque and its compound under the protection of the Zionist occupation's guns, no matter which [gate] he enters by, is a crime that lends American legitimacy to the Zionists' [claim] to Jerusalem... The Palestinians must devise a plan [ahead of] Obama's Al-Aqsa visit, [a plan] befitting the visitor and his goal. That is, they must prepare well by [organizing] a mass gathering at the mosque and its compound. All Palestinians who can do so must come to the mosque from every [part of Palestine], deploy there, and launch direct confrontations with the Zionists every day until the visit – even if this results in injuries and fatalities. The cursed day of Obama's visit [itself] must be a day of war and of a massive gathering, as befits an American president. This moment [in history] is a test for the Palestinian free will, a moment that must convey a clear message [to Obama]: You are not welcome on Palestinian soil, Obama, and you are not welcome at Al-Aqsa. The Palestinians [must] prepare for this visit, should it take place, and must respond to it as they responded to the visit by the criminal Sharon [in 2001].
"Obama is no less a criminal than Sharon, and his visit defiles Al-Aqsa and its compound no less that the visit of Jews there. If Obama arrives, if he does not learn a lesson from the Palestinian clashes with the occupation authorities in the days before his visit, and insists on visiting Al-Aqsa, he will be greeted with [a hail of] tattered shoes and rotten eggs. The Palestinians must not spare any effort to convey their message, and must not fear the consequences of a confrontation – because any consequences will benefit the Palestinians more than harm them, even if the price is injuries and fatalities.
"On that day, the Palestinians must not be left to struggle alone against Obama and his cursed visit. The Arab and Islamic nation will surely rush to express its opposition to this evil and unacceptable visit, and its sons will surely take to the streets and protest in front of American embassies throughout the Arab and Muslim world. If they act before the day [of the visit] arrives, their action might restore balance and awareness to [the position of] Obama and the American administration. If they show, with their protests and demonstrations, that they stand by the Palestinian people and refuse to remain silent, if their future conduct is different than it is today, and their struggle assumes a different character, it will cause America to think a thousand times before taking any step that harms the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause..."
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