In new research published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) investigative reporter Pinhas Inbari unveils the power hierarchy ruling the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism - and reveals that a relatively unknown group is actually calling the shots.
Inbari spoke to Arutz Sheva about his research, which found that it isn't the Palestinian Authority (PA) or the Jordanian Waqf that actually wields control on the Mount, even as the Israeli government reportedly is actively ceding control and reducing Jewish rights in talks with Jordan.
"At the head of the Islamist movement active on the Temple Mount is a movement that we don't know so well, the liberation movement 'Tahrir,' and it is the strongest on the Temple Mount," revealed Inbari, referring to the Hizb-ut Tahrir Islamist group.
He explained that Tahrir, like Islamic State (ISIS), is "a caliphate movement that espouses establishing Muslim caliphates, and therefore it does not recognize any Arab state or the PA, it doesn't recognize anything whose source is from the West like orderly democratic states. Its main enemy is the PA."
At the head of this movement seeking global Islamic domination is a leader who "is staying in Beirut, and they have diverse activities in Britain and Western Europe, Asia, Russia and more. The Temple Mount in their eyes is a central location but it isn't the only one."
While Tahrir may sound similar to ISIS, Inbari explained to Arutz Sheva that ISIS is an enemy as far as Tahrir is concerned.
"They are against ISIS because the caliph of ISIS (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi - ed.) doesn't meet the Islamic criterion. They don't recognize the ISIS caliph. As far as they're concerned the last true qualified caliph was the Ottoman caliph, and the Ottoman caliphate is the only caliphate."
Inbari argued that the fact that the Tahrir movement is relatively unknown to the Israeli public "is a great failure on our part."
He said the movement rules the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and "all the large conferences that take place in the Mount compound are theirs, they are the ones who chased off the Jordanian delegates from the Temple Mount and nearly lynched the Palestinian religious affairs minister."
He detailed how when a Palestinian delegate arrived at the site "they shook with fear and didn't enter the Temple Mount because they were afraid of an ambush by the Tahrir movement."
As far as how the secretive movement interacts with Israel, Inbari told Arutz Sheva that while the group opposes Israel, the Jewish state is not high on its list of priorities. It views the PA and Hamas as much more pressing matters, and fights them as its central enemies given that they warp Islam from Tahrir's point of view.
"Their current target is the PA and Hamas. Hamas tried to hold strikes in eastern Jerusalem and those who thwarted the attempts were Tahrir members, because they say that elections are invalid because they are Western, and Hamas took part in elections."
Inbari emphasized that the movement "is completely in favor of pure Sharia (Islamic law - ed.). They are against the Christians more than they are against the Israelis. They aren't in favor of us but they aren't against us. They don't want to fight us so as not to digress from their goal of bringing down the PA."
He noted that while they oppose ISIS, there are members from the group who go on to support ISIS, and therefore the movement often is "a sort of incubator for ISIS."
"They don't allow any footholds on the Temple Mount and Jordan also has a problem, they violently expelled Jordanian representatives," he said.
When asked why Jerusalem is a central location for them, he explained that they envision that the true caliphate will be announced at Al-Aqsa Mosque, and therefore they seek to vigorously control the site.
As for the Jordanian Waqf, which was left with a level of de facto control of the Temple Mount by Israel despite its liberation in the 1967 Six Day War, Inbari said "the Waqf is the only source that Israel speaks with, and that is the source of the Waqf's power."
"They have less organized salaries. They are the body that Israel recognizes. Waqf members are under the pressure of other movements, and need to align with one of them one time and another the next due to their weakness."
"The one who is capable of appearing on the Temple Mount is the liberation movement (Tahrir). We don't know what Hamas' power is because it is classified as a terror organization and its activities are covert. In contrast Tahrir acts openly and is not classified as a terror organization. They are against us in talk but not in action," he explained.