The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

Arafat's Mufti: No such thing as a 'Wailing Wall'

On the same day that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat was quoted as saying that he recognizes Jewish sovereignty over the Western Wall, his mufti, Ikremah Sabri, said on Friday that there is no such thing as a "Wailing Wall."

In an interview last week, Arafat reportedly told Henry Siegman, director of the United States/Middle East Project of the Council on Foreign Relations and former executive director of the American Jewish Congress, that he accepts Jewish sovereignty over the Wailing Wall and over the Jewish quarter of the Old City.

Arafat explained: "My religion, Islam, obliges me to respect Judaism and Jewish history, whose prophets are revered in the holy Quran as God's messengers. While we insist that East Jerusalem be the capital of a Palestinian state, and that the Haram al-Sharif, on which are situated the two mosques, Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock, come under Palestinian sovereignty, we accept Jewish sovereignty over the Wailing Wall and over the Jewish quarter of the Old City. We accept this only because we recognize and respect the Jewish religion and the Jewish historical attachment to Palestine."

But the mufti, who was appointed by Arafat, told thousands of worshippers attending Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa mosque that the Western Wall is part of the Al-Aqsa mosque and that it belongs to the Muslim Wakf (trust). "Seventy years ago the Committee of the League of Nations recognized the Al-Buraq Wall (Western Wall) as being part of the walls of the Al-Aqsa mosque," Sabri said.

The mufti pointed out that non-Islamic institutions accepted at the time the fact that the Al-Buraq Wall was a Muslim wall and attacked those who refer to it as the Western Wall.

Sabri's sermon was largely devoted to criticizing the Geneva Accord, which gives the Jews sovereignty over the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.

He also took issue with the agreement because it relinquishes the right of return for all the refugees . an issue which constitutes the heart of the Palestinian cause," he said. "We completely reject this agreement and don't recognize it," he added. Last week the mufti published a fatwa (religious decree) forbidding anyone from giving up the right of return.