Looking out on the Temple Mount.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan made opposite statements on Monday about the police’s assessment as to whether MKs can resume visits to the Temple Mount.
During a Likud faction meeting, MK Oren Hazan asked Netanyahu if he plans to reverse his ban on lawmakers visiting Judaism’s holiest site, in light of reports that the police reversed their recommendation to keep MKs away because of public safety concerns.
The ban on lawmakers visiting the Temple Mount has been in place for over a year.
According to sources in the meeting, which was closed to press, Netanyahu responded that he does not plan on changing his mind anytime soon.
The prime minister said the police did not make a recommendation, the timing is very sensitive, and MKs must be very careful and patient.
A Likud source conjectured that Netanyahu was referring to the final months of US President Barack Obama’s time in office, ahead of US President- elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, as a time that Israel should not rock the boat.
Less than two hours later, Erdan, who was not at the faction meeting, said the reverse.
During an hour of questions for Erdan in the plenum, MK Yehudah Glick (Likud) thanked the minister for his policies that have brought relative quiet to the Temple Mount.
“Are the reports in the media true,” Glick asked, “that the police recommended to cancel the ban of MKs from visiting the Temple Mount, which Arab MKs said they were proud to violate?” Erdan recounted that the original ban was recommended by security forces and authorized by the Knesset Ethics Committee as well as the prime minister.
“We need to be sensitive to the matter of parliamentary immunity, but even today there are legal limitations to that immunity, including national security,” he stated.
Now, Erdan said, “the police think, based on its professional evaluation, that visits may be renewed under certain conditions, including that MKs give several hours advance notice.”
When visits are renewed, he added, attention must be paid to the timing, so that they don’t happen in a period of unrest and provoke more instability.
Still, Erdan acknowledged Glick’s assessment that currently things are relatively quiet.
Erdan said he plans to bring the police’s latest recommendation to the prime minister and Knesset speaker.
The public security minister pointed out that the final decision is out of his hands and left to the prime minister, who negotiates with the Jordanian Islamic Trust that manages the site.
“Unfortunately, after the Six Day War, this status quo situation was created on the Mount,” Erdan stated. “It is not in my authority to change the status quo... but it is true that the status quo has been distorted over the years. I am trying to reverse those distortions so that the true status quo will exist, whereby Jews can visit and Muslims can pray, but freely, without any harm to either side’s security. We believe in freedom of movement and freedom of worship.”