The Israeli embassy in Cairo has expressed gratitude for an Egyptian writer’s controversial remarks about the status of Jerusalem.
The embassy was referring to an interview that was broadcast on Sunday, in which Youssef Ziedan, an Egyptian novelist and scholar, said that the al-Aqsa mosque is not located in Jerusalem’s al-Haram al-Sharif compound and that Jerusalem is not a holy city.
In a local televised appearance, Ziedan also laid blame on Arab and Israeli leaders, accusing them of repeatedly exploiting Jerusalem as a battleground that has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
In response, the embassy said on Tuesday in a statement posted on its Facebook page: “We are pleased to hear the words of writer and historian Youssef Ziedan and his description of the deep-rooted relationship between Jews and Muslims that existed even before Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him.”
“And at how he pointed out that the origins of the ongoing conflict between the two sides stem from extremists,” the statement added.
“There is no doubt that Ziedan’s interpretation entails the need to abandon the culture of hate between the two sides, and this in our view is an important message. Cooperation between Jews and Muslims would benefit Egyptians and Israelis and would be beneficial to the two sides’ rising generations.”
Ziedan comments, on a widely watched talk show viewed by Egyptians and Arabs across the region, came as Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip are protesting a US decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The status of Jerusalem is extremely sensitive and is one of the main sticking points in efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Palestinians consider East Jerusalem as the occupied capital of their future state, while Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital.
Citing scholars, Ziedan said that the structures of al-Haram Mosque and al-Aqsa Mosque were “on the road from Mecca to Ta’if” and that “neither we [Muslims] nor the [Jews] have anything to do with it”.
US President Trump’s announcement that he would be moving his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem prompted international condemnation and widespread protests across the world.
Last week, the United Nations General Assembly passed a non-binding resolution that declared Trump’s move “null and void”.
Demonstrations in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem have been met with the use of force by Israeli forces. In the Gaza Strip, Israel launched several air raids.
Since Trump’s announcement, at least 15 people have been killed across the occupied Palestinian territories, more than 2,900 people injured and over 500 jailed.