Ben-Gvir's Temple Mount trip was arrogant, self-serving - opinion

By going to the Temple Mount, one may find an abundance of Ben-Gvir's empty arrogance aimed at receiving popular support from his followers rather than seeking the greater good of Israel.

 National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir on Temple Mount on Tuesday, January 3, 2023 (photo credit: PUBLIC SECURITY MINISTRY)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir on Temple Mount on Tuesday, January 3, 2023
(photo credit: PUBLIC SECURITY MINISTRY)

I am not against National Security Minister Ben-Gvir’s ascent to the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount is the holiest site for the Jewish people. As long as it is carried out without violence, defiling of any sort or extreme and outspoken arrogance that may hint at a potential change to the status quo, this should be seen as nothing other than a mere practice of one’s religious freedom.

Also, one should recall that the actual aforementioned ascent is not the first in the recent past. Senior figures, not belonging to the same political camp as Ben-Gvir, had also practiced their right in a similar manner only several months ago. Furthermore and from a security point of view, a decision to not ascend the Temple Mount after the intention to was announced would have been perceived as surrendering to the violent threats of Hamas and its call to its followers in the West Bank (not in Gaza) to rebel against this so-called assault against Jerusalem. Such a decision, had it been taken after the intent was made public, would thus have weakened Israel’s deterrence.

And yet, within this particular step taken by Ben-Gvir, lasting precisely 13 minutes, being the very first operative step taken in his new capacity as the guardian of Israeli internal security, one may find an abundance of empty arrogance aimed at receiving popular support from his followers rather than seeking the greater good of Israel.

And why? Owing to the fact that Israel should not aggravate the murderous, terrorist entity Hamas, or the Palestinians, or Jordan? No! There is, in fact, truly nothing in an ascent by a Jew to Temple Mount to aggravate anyone or to change the so-called status quo. This is mere rhetoric, adopted in recent decades by the Palestinians and gladly embraced by Hamas, who view themselves as the self-appointed guardians of Jerusalem’s holy sites for Muslims, despite the fact that officially this has been granted to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

MK Itamar Ben-Gvir during a discussion and a vote on a bill to dissolve the Knesset, at the assembly hall of the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, on June 22, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)MK Itamar Ben-Gvir during a discussion and a vote on a bill to dissolve the Knesset, at the assembly hall of the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, on June 22, 2022. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Why was Ben-Gvir's Temple Mount trip self-serving?

In fact, that is not at all the reason why this first step taken by Ben-Gvir was arrogant and self-serving. Rather, it is the fact that as the freshly appointed minister of national security, he is expected to begin at once:

  • to take care of the endless violence and crime, which has reached unprecedented heights in Israel in general and the Arab sector in Israel in particular;
  • to tend to the unequalled extortion that has swept over the country, particularly in its periphery and has affected almost every business, both small and large throughout the country;
  • to urgently tend to the land grabs, arson, extortion and life threats which Jewish farmers face throughout the country and particularly in the north of Israel, mostly from Bedouins, which had left them helpless in recent years, owing to a complete lack of competence on the part of government and law enforcement agencies as to how to deal with this growing phenomenon; and
  • to complete legislation as per the confiscation of money and goods belonging to illegal arms dealers, which should have long ago been part and parcel of Israel’s legislature, and oddly enough is not.

HE IS expected, as he promised during the endless election campaigns the country has held in recent years, to incorporate into the state budget a significant increase in salaries for law enforcement officers, particularly those who are in the first five years of service, given the very low incomes their families must live with and the reality of so many of them leaving the police force.

He is expected to focus on the complete lack of internal security and law enforcement in the Negev, causing a constant fear of many to drive through streets that have become almost lawless and walk those streets safely at night. A significant, even if unofficial, portion of the Bedouin population in the Negev also anxiously awaits the Minister’s actions towards returning law and order in the face of the actions of reckless, unemployed and heavily armed Bedouin youth throughout the South of the country.

Indeed, accompanied by a significant number of security personnel and cloaked in a bulletproof vest, an ascent was made by Ben-Gvir to Temple Mount for those 13 minutes.

Given that it was made by this particular minister and as his very first step in the newly-formed Israeli government, the current prime minister, his newly-appointed strategic affairs minister and foreign minister shall now be kept busy by the international arena and our friends within it, in order to put out the fire which was stoked by those 13 minutes.

Not because the visit was wrong or immoral. It was not. But because the persona performing it and his timing was nothing other than a truly unnecessary poke of aggravation in the face of our friends, particularly those in our very region. The United Arab Emirates, for instance, hence led the request in the United Nations Security Council to convene a discussion on the very visit of minister Ben-Gvir to Temple Mount, not a constructive step for a government that has made its wish to deepen and broaden the Abraham Accords abundantly clear.

In the face of what therefore appears to be a very busy year for those in the incoming government dealing with foreign affairs, I truly hope that Ben-Gvir will focus on the improvement of the current dire situation within Israel with regard to the security of its Arab and Jewish citizens, particularly in Israel’s northern and southern periphery. He has the opportunity to leave a significant impact and make a true difference in the lives of many millions of Israelis.

The writer, a former MK, was the founder and co-chair of the first Abraham Accords Caucus in the Knesset.