Israeli police officers take positions on the roof of the al-Aksa mosque during clashes with Palestinians in Jerusalem's Old City.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has banned Israeli parliamentarians and ministers from visiting the Temple Mount in an effort to quell a rising wave of Palestinian violence, that has left four Israelis dead and dozens injured.
Israel believes the terror attacks over the last week in the West Bank, Jerusalem, Kiryat Gat and Petah Tikva were were sparked by recent clashes between security forces and Palestinian rioters on the Temple Mount that began during the Rosh Hashanah Holiday in September.
Netanyahu adopted the measure on Wednesday night after consulting with defense and security experts.
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Senior policy-makers recommendation the ban to avoid a "dangerous provocation" that could set off a "powder keg."
Palestinians fear that Israel is attempting to impose sovereignty on the site which is now under the custodianship of the Islamic Wakf and the Jordanian monarchy.
The site hosts the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aksa Mosque. Jews can visit, but can not worship on the site.
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Right wing activists and a number of politicians believe that Jews should be able to worship there and that the compound, the third holiest Islamic site, should be under Israeli sovereignty.
In the last weeks Netanyahu has issued many public statements in which he has insisted that Israel is committed to maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount.
He has charged that the Palestinian Authority has used the issue of the Temple Mount to incite violence against Israel.
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“Unfortunately, a lot of this goes back to the incitement from the Hamas, from the Palestinian Authority, from Islamist movements in Israel itself that Israel is trying to change the status quo on the Temple Mount, which spread a lie that Israeli is trying to change the status quo on the Temple Mount, that Israel wants in any way to hurt the sacred sites of Islam,” Netanyahu said on Tuesday when he visited the Samaria Brigade Headquarters.
“We are the guarantors of the sacred sites. We are the reason that the sacred sites of Islam, of Christianity and Judaism do not look like Palmara [in Syria],” Netanyahu said on Tuesday as he visited the Samaria Brigade Headquarters in the West Bank.
On Wednesday the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordecai gave an interview in Arabic to Ma’an, a Palestinian news agency in which he also assured readers that Israel was committed to the status quo.
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Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) is among those politicians who have frequently visited the Temple Mount, has called for Israeli sovereignty there and "wants to see a third temple built here."
Ariel said he heard about the ban only through the media and plans to speak with Netanyahu about the matter.
Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog (Labor) Herzog who visited the Old City on Thursday morning said the ban should have been issued months ago.
Last month, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon signed a decree banning the Murabitun and Murabatat Islamist activist groups, which gather on the Temple Mount to disturb and intimidate Jewish visitors to the holy site on a daily basis.
Ya’alon’s office stated that the action is in line with a recommendation by the Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency, and is in accordance with the position of the Israel Police. Ya’alon has become convinced that the step is necessary to protect national security and public order.
The activities of these male and female groups “form a central component in the creation of tension and violence on the Temple Mount in particular, and Jerusalem in general,” the defense minister’s office says. It describes the activists as engaging in “dangerous incitement” against tourists, visitors, and worshipers on the Temple Mount, which leads to violence that could endanger lives.
In the ensuing weeks since Ya'alon's decree, Israeli police and Palestinian rioters have frequently clashed at the site, provoking outrage from Jordan and other Muslim countries who accuse Jerusalem of seeking to undermine day-to-day Islamic control of the mosques and shrines in the Old City.