Knesset Interior Committee chairman David Amsalem (Likud) cut short a meeting about discrimination against Jews on the Temple Mount 10 minutes after it began, following a shouting match between Arab and Jewish MKs on Tuesday.
The meeting was called following motions to the agenda by MKs Yinon Magal (Bayit Yehudi) and Miki Zohar (Likud), and it quickly spun out of control.
Magal said it was problematic that Jews who wanted to pray on the Temple Mount could not do so.
“Jews have the right to pray on the Mount, and our first goal has to be to keep order and allow Jews to ascend the Mount quietly and freely,” he said.
Magal demanded that police keep the “Morabitat” – a group of Muslim women with covered faces whom Islamic groups pay to harass Jewish visitors – away from the site immediately.
Zohar said he respected Islam and asked that Muslims respect his religion in return, and not obstruct Jews from visiting their holy site.
“It cannot be that in a Jewish State, with Jewish sovereignty, we can’t do minimal acts of worship, like prayer. This harms our freedom of religion. How would the world react if we limited Muslims’ freedom of religion? This problem needs to be solved, and freedom of religion for the Jewish People in its land must be respected,” he stated.
Zionist Union MK Zuheir Bahloul, however, said the right-wing MKs were “cynically taking advantage of the Interior Committee” to repeat things that had already been said. He added that the police had already decided that the situation was too dangerous to change the policies.
“So we should let crazy women in masks continue rioting?” Magal interjected, referring to the Morabitat.
MK Jamal Zahalka (Joint List) accused MKs supporting Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount of being “pyromaniacs who want to make headlines with their patriotism.”
“There’s no problem in visiting Al-Aksa,” he said, referring to the mosque on the Temple Mount, “as long as they are not provocative visits by people who say they want to divide Al-Aksa.”
Zahalka added that if the status quo were to change, “blood will be shed.”
“Are you making a threat?” Yisrael Beytenu MK Sharon Gal asked in response. “That is terrorism! The Temple Mount is not occupied, it is liberated, and it is ours. Don’t threaten us with blood. Who are you, anyway? It’s ours, and you will not change history.”
Zahalka turned to Yehuda Glick – the Temple Mount activist and Likud candidate who was shot point-blank last year by a Muslim terrorist claiming to be defending the site – and told him that he was responsible for bloodshed.
The Joint List MK then turned to Amsalem and, referring to Gal, said, “Protect me from fascists.”
“Get the terrorist out of here!” Gal exclaimed.
Several Joint List MKs demanded that Gal take back what he had said, but he refused, saying they were trying to terrorize him.
“You can complain to the Ethics Committee,” he retorted, though that panel has not yet been formed in the 20th Knesset. “Your performances and terrorism belong in Ramallah, not here.”
Amsalem, who called for order several times as the MKs shouted at one another, said he would not take part in a superficial production, and anyone who wanted to take the topic seriously shouldn’t shout in order to make headlines.
“This is not a theological debate; rather, it is one about discrimination in [allowing] entry to the Temple Mount,” he stated.
Zohar grumbled that canceling the meeting and stifling discussion was exactly what the Arab MKs wanted.
Glick said that the scene in the committee meeting was similar to what happened on the Temple Mount every day.
“Hostile Arab elements use verbal and physical terror in order to create fear, and the State of Israel bends over and is afraid of its own shadow.
Instead of acting like a government and nipping violence in the bud, we are giving them free rein in the center of Israeli sovereignty and democracy,” he stated.
Also Tuesday, Jews visiting the Temple Mount reported that dozens of Arabs had physically attacked them at the area’s exit gate, leading to the arrest of six Arabs.
Activist Gilad Hadari, who was among those attacked, said he felt very threatened and that he often saw the same people standing near the exit and assaulting Jewish visitors.
He argued that they should be put on trial, not just remanded for several hours and then released to attack Jewish groups again.