World Bulletin/News Desk
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday denied reports about plans by the Knesset (parliament) to discuss a bill aimed at dividing the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound between Muslims and Jews.
Netanyahu's spokesman Ofir Gendleman described allegations about plans by the Knesset to debate a bill about dividing the holy site between Muslims and Jews as "baseless".
He said that Israel will continue to uphold the status quo in the holy sites in Jerusalem.
The Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowments and Heritage, a Palestinian NGO, has claimed that the Knesset was planning to discuss a draft law next month aimed at partitioning the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound between Muslims and Jews.
In recent months, groups of extremist Jewish settlers – often accompanied by Israeli security forces – have repeatedly forced their way into East Jerusalem's flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque complex.
The frequent violations anger Palestinian Muslims and occasionally lead to violent confrontations.
For Muslims, Al-Aqsa represents the world's third holiest site. Jews, for their part, refer to the area as the "Temple Mount," claiming it was the site of two prominent Jewish temples in ancient times.
Israel occupied East Jerusalem during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state – a move never recognized by the international community.
In September 2000, a visit to the site by controversial Israeli leader Ariel Sharon sparked what later became known as the "Second Intifada" – a popular uprising against the Israeli occupation in which thousands of Palestinians were killed.
New elections 'last thing Israel needs'
Netanyahu has also dismissed reports that he is seeking early elections over tensions within his government coalition which could lead to the collapse of his government.
“The last thing the people of Israel need now is an election,” Netanyahu was quoted as saying late Tuesday by The Jerusalem Post at his 65th birthday celebration at his office.
“We want to continue with this government, with this Knesset, to continue leading the people of Israel along the correct path.”
The reports emerged against the backdrop of a looming political crisis sparked by Netanyahu's spoken intention to prevent legislating Justice Minister Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party's controversial conversion bill opposed by the ultra-Orthodox parties.
Livni wrote on her Facebook page that her party will continue pushing the conversion reform bill in the Knesset "with the help of our liberal partners" even if it is not advanced by the cabinet.
According to The Jerusalem Post, Netanyahu will meet with the heads of the parties inside his governing coalition on Wednesday and threaten them that if they "continue their insubordination," he will initiate early elections.
"What Netanyahu said [at his birthday party] does not mean we won’t deteriorate to early elections, which could still happen," a source close to the prime minister was quoted by the Israeli paper as saying.
"We will no longer accept threats from coalition partners. If they refuse to compromise, it would lead to elections."
Netanyahu's coalition, formed in March of last year in the wake of legislative elections, comprises five parties: Likud (20), Yesh Atid (19), Jewish Home (12), Yisrael Beiteinu (11) and Livni’s Hatnua (6) for a total of 68 members in the 120-seat Knesset.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 22 Ekim 2014, 13:22