Police allow return of MKs to Temple Mount

Ban expected to be lifted, first for Muslim MKs on Ramadan, then for all lawmakers.

June 13, 2016 22:35
2 minute read.
Temple Mount

Aerial view of Temple Mount. (photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)

The Knesset Ethics Committee is expected to approve a recommendation to allow lawmakers to ascend the Temple Mount again after a seven-month ban, in a vote scheduled for Tuesday.

In a meeting with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Knesset Legal Adviser Eyal Yinon, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh said the police have reassessed the situation on the Temple Mount, and it is once again safe for MKs to visit.

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The outline the police recommended is that Muslim MKs be allowed to ascend the mount during the last week of Ramadan, and after that, all legislators will be allowed to visit the site.

The Ethics Committee had hitherto prohibited them from visiting the Temple Mount. Such a visit would amount to an ethical violation. The decision was based on a police recommendation, which held that such visits could provoke violence.

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, where both Holy Temples once stood. Currently, al-Aksa Mosque stands atop the mount, which is administered by the Jordanian Wakf Muslim religious trust. The Wakf bans all non-Muslim prayer in the entire plaza, and together with Palestinians not acting in an official capacity, often harasses Jewish visitors.

Last autumn, when the recent wave of violence began, the Islamic Movement and terrorist groups claimed Israel was trying to change the status quo on the Temple Mount and even destroy the mosque, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has emphatically denied. This claim has been trotted out many times to provoke violence, as early as in the 1929 Hebron Massacre.

Last month, several Joint List MKs announced their intention to visit the mount during Ramadan despite the ban.

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 from 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.”

MK Yousef Jabareen (Joint List), the sole member of the Ethics Committee who voted against the ban, wrote a letter to the panel’s chairman, MK Yitzhak Vaknin (Shas), asking that it be overturned.

The requests came the same week Temple Mount activist Yehudah Glick was sworn in as a Likud MK. Glick said he would honor the ban, despite his dedication to equal rights for Jews at the site, and he petitioned an ethics complaint against Gnaim for saying he would knowingly violate it.

In November 2014, Glick survived an assassination attempt by Mutaz Hijazi, an Arab from Jerusalem who shot Glick in the chest four times and called him “an enemy of al-Aksa.”

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