Islamists, Pinhas Inbari explains, are deeply divided over the religious status of the al-Aqsa mosque and of Jerusalem in general. While the Muslim Brotherhood (of which Hamas is an offshoot) sees Jerusalem as its symbolic religious center and the mosque as itself holy, Salafists like Islamic State and al-Qaeda suspect the holiness of any site outside of Mecca and Medina and have downplayed the importance of Jerusalem. Further differences divide Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and divide Palestinians among themselves:
One reason for the Muslim Brotherhood’s pronounced emphasis on the al-Aqsa issue is political. They want to unify all the Arab revolutions in all the separate Arab countries into one great revolution under the flag of saving al-Aqsa. . . . Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, for their part, regard this as a political danger and hence do not support the Palestinians’ struggle to entrench their status in Jerusalem; they see the emphasis on Jerusalem as working against them. . . .
In seeking to maintain its status in Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority came up with the idea of “religious tourism” to the city. The aim is to flood it with Muslim tourists, who would strengthen its Muslim character and thereby counteract the [supposed] “Judaization” trend in the city. The Muslim Brotherhood harshly condemned this initiative, calling it “normalization.” In their view, inundating the city with tourists sharply contradicts the slogans about battle and warfare to liberate al-Aqsa, with which they hope to unite the whole world of Islam under their flag. . . .
The dominant force in the mosque compound is Hizb ut-Tahrir (the Islamic Liberation party). Deployed worldwide, Hizb ut-Tahrir has adopted the exclusive goal of promoting the idea of the Islamic caliphate and does not hide its intention to proclaim the caliphate from al-Aqsa. Thus, the movement clashes with the PLO on the one hand, as in the ousting of the senior Palestinian official, and with Hamas on the other, but first and foremost with Jordan [which currently has custodianship of the mosque].
Only Israel, Inbari concludes, can be counted on to keep a lid on the intra-Muslim conflicts, and is able to prevent Salafists from taking over and destroying al-Aqsa as they have other Muslim holy places in Syria and Iraq.