(photo credit: courtesy)
Right-wing Mks from Likud and National Union accused the Jerusalem police of discriminating against religious Jews who wish to enter the Temple Mount, in a charged meeting of the Interior Committee on Wednesday morning at the Knesset.
“It’s not true when you say there’s no difference between Jews that wear a kippah or don’t wear a kippah, you do behave differently to them,” said Uri Ariel (National Union).
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Police Chief Superintendent Avi Bitton denied that there was any discrimination in determining which Jews could enter the Temple Mount. “Discrimination does not exist, but we will not allow someone who makes provocations and generates a concern for disturbing the peace to enter,” Bitton said at the meeting.
Bitton added that there are a few dozen people on a “no entry” list, who have been accused of creating provocations in the plaza. There are also a handful of people who must receive prior permission from Bitton personally to enter the plaza, and must sign a document that they will not behave offensively. He added that there are limits on large groups.
“The situation is that the police can decide who they want and who they don’t want,” said Yehuda Glick, the chairman of the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation, which advocates for the construction of the Third Temple, who has been banned from entering the Temple Mount since April 16, 2011. “The police have the authority to be the judge, the authority to make the laws, the authority to implement decisions, they don’t need the authority of anyone else, they do what they want,” he said. Glick added that the ban on his entry was personally damaging to his work. He has a court date to overturn his ban on June 28 at the Jerusalem Magistrate Court.
MK Danny Danon (Likud) slammed the police for not allowing soldiers in uniform to enter the plaza, adding that when he took a group, one of the soldiers was forced to change into civilian attire in the bathroom. “I will personally sue Bibi [Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu] in the Supreme Court if this order came from him!” Danon said when the police replied that this directive did not come from their department.
The lone dissenting voice came from United Arab List-Ta'al MK Taleb el-Sana. “The Knesset is becoming a stage, and these people are cooperating to endanger these sites in the name of the public,” said an agitated Sana, who then degenerated into a screaming match with MK Michael Ben Ari, who called Sana a terrorist. He added that with true freedom of religion Muslims would be able to pray at the Western Wall.
"The police were blatantly dismissive of Knesset members,” said MK Ze'ev Elkin (Likud) “Hiding information from them is against the law," he told the Post
. The meeting, which was the second such discussion examining discrimination against religious Jews at the Temple Mount, ended without a conclusion or vote. Elkin said he would work to hold a hearing with the Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonvich and the police in the near future.
The Temple Mount has been open to Jewish visitors since 2003. According to police figures, there were 772 Jewish visitors in April of this year, 379 in May, and more than 500 Jewish visitors so far in June, which included the holidays of Shavuot and Jerusalem Day.