Labor MK Hilik Bar has withdrawn his signature from a bill that would ensure the right to prayer on the Temple Mount for Jews, just days after expressing enthusiastic support for the idea.
A statement from Bar’s office said he ended his backing for the bill, which he sponsored in cooperation with Likud MK Miri Regev, after consultations with security officials and political and diplomatic figures.
Access for Jews and other non-Muslims at the Temple Mount is strictly controlled, and police prohibit any non-Muslim prayer at the site as well as any outward demonstrations of religious worship, in accordance with the demands of the Jordanian Islamic trust, or Wakf, which administers the area.
The Labor Party’s chairman Isaac Herzog and Knesset faction chairman Eitan Cabel asked that Bar withdraw his support in light of their position that Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount can only be achieved through “dialogue and not legislation.”
“I suspend my support for the bill without happiness or celebration because the bill is moderate, has many positive aspects and is commensurate with the rulings of the High Court of Justice,” Bar said.
“Love and attachment to religion and tradition, to national values and to Jerusalem are not the private property of the Right. I will continue to work toward freedom of religion and coexistence between Jews, Muslims and Christians.”
He added that the security and diplomatic officials he spoke with emphasized the “explosive nature” of such a bill.
Bar said the day would come when Jews would be able to pray together with Muslims on the Temple Mount, but that the time was not yet right to advance the idea through legislation, and that the goal of the bill might be reached through better interfaith dialogue, or only with the completion of a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
The High Court has upheld the right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount, but the police maintain that such activities endanger public safety, thereby entitling them to prevent Jewish prayer at the site.
Earlier this week, Bar said that he and the Labor party “‘are part of the Zionist Center-Left that sees our holy sites as the basis of our existence and the essence of our history.”
He added that the time had come to “neutralize the explosive political issue of Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount,” and said there was no reason that threats of an intifada be made every time a right-wing MK sought to visit the site.