The Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
MKs on the Temple Mount during Ramadan could provoke escalated tensions, Knesset Chief Security Officer Yosef Griff warned Thursday, in response to Islamic Movement-affiliated lawmakers who planned to visit the holy site.
On behalf of Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Griff emphasized in a letter that all Knesset members are barred from visiting the Temple Mount.
On Wednesday, Joint List MK Masud Gnaim, wrote a letter to Edelstein on behalf of himself and MKs Abdel- Hakim Haj Yahya and Taleb Abu Arar, all of the United Arab List, which is aligned with the Islamic Movement’s southern branch, stating that they “intend to enter al-Aksa Mosque and pray in it during the month of the fast of Ramadan.”
“Fulfilling this religious commandment is a basic right and part of our lifestyle as Muslims and religious people,” the letter reads.
Griff stressed that the Knesset directive banning lawmakers from ascending the Temple Mount was in place as such visits “are liable to worsen tensions and cause an escalation in incidents on the Temple Mount and surrounding area in a way that creates a serious security threat to the state.”
The security officer added that such a ban would remain in place until further notice, and that any violations of the order could lead to punitive measures against MKs.
“I would like to remind you that on April 14, 2016, police commissioner Roni Alsheich notified the Knesset speaker that it had been decided to uphold the ban on Knesset members from entering the Temple Mount until further notice,” Griff wrote in the letter addressed to the Israeli Arab MKs.
Griff also pointed out that the Knesset Ethics Committee decided that Temple Mount visits by MKs would be considered ethics violations.
The UAL legislators’ letter came on the same day that MK Yehuda Glick (Likud) was sworn in. Glick is a longtime advocate for equal praying rights on the Temple Mount, as currently, only Muslims are allowed to pray on the site, which is also where the Jewish temple used to stand.
However, Glick said earlier this week that he is a “team player” and that he will obey the ban on lawmakers’ visits to the Temple Mount.
On Thursday, Glick lodged his first complaint to the Ethics Committee as an MK, against Gnaim, who “announced in advance that he plans to trample and disrespect the Ethics Committee’s rules.”