Ben-Gvir evades question on change to Temple Mount status quo

Itamar Be-Gvir refused to say whether he would work to allow Jews to pray on Temple Mount.

 Religious Zionist Party MK Itamar Ben Gvir at the Temple Mount on Jerusalem Day, May 29, 2022.  (photo credit: TEMPLE MOUNT ADMINISTRATION)
Religious Zionist Party MK Itamar Ben Gvir at the Temple Mount on Jerusalem Day, May 29, 2022.
(photo credit: TEMPLE MOUNT ADMINISTRATION)

National security minister-designate Itamar Ben-Gvir on Sunday refused to say whether he would act to change the status quo for Jews visiting the Temple Mount, which could trigger unrest and protests.

Asked by hosts Kalman Liebskind and Asaf Liberman of KAN Radio whether he would allow unlimited visits by Jewish Israelis on the Temple Mount, Ben-Gvir answered that he would act to end the “racist policy” that “discriminates against Jews,” but was unwilling to say what he would actually do.

Jewish Israelis are currently only allowed to visit the Temple Mount four hours a day, five days a week. A change in the status quo or a visit by Ben-Gvir himself could trigger protests and unrest by Arab-Israelis and Palestinians who view such visits as provocations.

Otzma Yehudit’s No. 2, MK Itshak Waserlauf, visited the site last week but only announced that he had done so afterwards. Ben-Gvir said on Sunday that he would visit the site in the coming month.

Otzma Yehudit MK Amichai Eliyahu, said on Sunday, that there needs to be Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount.

“We aspire to build the holy Temple there.... We are going to return to the days when the Temple Mount was truly in our hands.”

 RELIGIOUS JEWS visit the Temple Mount, in 2020. (credit: SLIMAN KHADER/FLASH90) RELIGIOUS JEWS visit the Temple Mount, in 2020. (credit: SLIMAN KHADER/FLASH90)

Ben-Gvir's actions could potentially provoke Palestinians

Ben-Gvir’s actions regarding the Temple Mount are also politically contentious. Likud MK Boaz Bismuth said on Sunday that if Ben-Gvir chooses to visit the site, it will be seen as a provocation.

“When Ben-Gvir participated in [outlawed Kach movement founder] Rabbi [Meir] Kahane’s memorial service, I said that he was expected not to attend next year, since he is a member of the Israeli Knesset. I do think that it cannot be that Jews are restricted from praying in a place that is perhaps the holiest for the Jewish people, but on the other hand I am against doing things to set the area on fire.”

"I do think that it cannot be that Jews are restricted from praying in a place that is perhaps the holiest for the Jewish people, but on the other hand I am against doing things to set the area on fire."

MK Boaz Bismuth

Bismuth later clarified on Twitter, “The Temple Mount is the heart of our existence and the holiest place for the Jewish people. Period. Therefore, I support in principle visiting the site and appearing before God. The thought that a Jew cannot pray there is unacceptable but ‘there is a time and place for everything.’ Especially during this time of forming a government. See you on the Mount, Itamar.”

Former religious services minister Matan Kahana wrote on Twitter, “I understand that you [Ben-Gvir] gave up on Jewish prayer at the Temple Mount. Maybe start by opening the site to Jews for one additional hour each day... or maybe it is now apparent that the outgoing government actually acted with responsibility, and that is why the number of visitors to the site in the last year nearly doubled.”