Since Israel seized control of East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan in 1967, Muslims have boycotted visiting the Al-Aqsa mosque, saying it would amount to a recognition of Israel’s occupation. However, Jordanian and Palestinian officials are reversing that stance. In February, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on Muslims to visit out of solidarity with the Palestinians as well as to counter attempts to “Judaise” the city. After that appeal, several Arab and Islamic leaders began to pray at the mosque in an effort to get more Muslims to visit the mosque, which gets just a few thousand visitors annually. As many as 2 million visitors could visit the mosque a year if access was free and unimpeded, said a senior Muslim official involved in the plan. “It would protect Al-Aqsa and also provide an enormous boost to the Palestinian economy,” he said.
Reuters.com, Tom Heneghan, 6/19/2012