Likud Youth ascend to Temple Mount despite Netanyahu's opposition

The youth leaders 'want to strengthen our sovereignty at our holiest site'

Likud Youth on the Temple Mount (photo credit: ELIRAN GAFSOU)
Likud Youth on the Temple Mount
(photo credit: ELIRAN GAFSOU)
Twenty members of the Likud Youth organization paid a controversial visit to the Temple Mount Thursday morning, despite pressure from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office to cancel the visit.
The youth followed in the footsteps of then-Likud leader Ariel Sharon, whose controversial visit to the Mount in 2000 was blamed for Palestinian rioting that had been planned in advance of the visit by then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Officials close to Netanyahu and advisers to Likud ministers called the youth leaders and warned them that the visit was irresponsible and would do more harm than good. The youth leaders were only willing to cancel the visit if Netanyahu would agree to do more to protect Israeli sovereignty on the Mount.
“Because of the events that were on Rosh Hashana, we wanted to strengthen our sovereignty at our holiest site,” said Dor Harlap, one of the leaders of Likud Youth and a candidate for the leadership of its council, the organization’s second-most important post. “We didn’t come to cause provocations or make a mess. We are activists who were elected to the leadership of Likud Youth, and we came to show our presence.”
Half of the group were religiously observant while the other half were not. The religious youth held slihot prayers at the Western Wall and immersed in a mikve before ascending the Mount.
On the Mount, the group was surrounded by 20 officials from the Wakf Muslim religious trust. Female Muslim activists yelled at the group.
Harlap said the group did not hold an illegal prayer session but that he and his comrades did utter personal prayers silently.
“We made a similar visit when there were riots last year, and we knew we would be back,” Harlap said. “We prayed in our hearts.”