(Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem/Barbara Kabel

High-level Arab visits to Jerusalem to pray privately at the third holiest site in Islam should not be seen as acceptance of Israel’s disputed grip on the eastern half of the city, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday.

The argument by some respected Islamic scholars that going to the al-Aqsa mosque is forbidden as long as access is controlled by Israelis is wrong-headed, Abbas said

Muslim faithful visit Mecca and Medina with the permission of Saudi Arabia. But seeking Israel’s consent to get to al-Aqsa is seen by some Muslims as acquiescence in Israeli occupation.

But this month, two Jordanian princes visited the mosque and adjacent Dome of the Rock, and Jordanian intelligence official Hussein al-Majali was seen at the sacred compound on Monday.

Their trips to Jerusalem must have been coordinated with Israel. Access to al-Aqsa is guarded by Israel security forces, who protect all of Jerusalem’s holy sites.