Acting Israel Police chief Bentzi Sau on Monday sent a letter to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, informing him that police will prohibit the entry of MKs to the flashpoint Temple Mount site in Jerusalem “until further notice.”
Sau addressed the letter to the Knesset speaker and sent copies of it to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and his deputy, State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, and the Knesset’s legal adviser.
Netanyahu last month imposed a ban on Jewish MKs visiting the Temple Mount. He expanded the embargo to all MKs, regardless of religious and political affiliation, after he was criticized by lawmakers, including members of his own Likud party, who said the ban was discriminatory against Jewish MKs.
Joint List MK Basel Ghattas – who is a Christian – entered the Temple Mount wearing a disguise last week. He then said on Facebook that he went to the site to send a message to Netanyahu that he can’t stop people from entering the compound.
עכשיו זה רשמי: המפכ״ל אוסר רשמית על כניסת ח״כים להר הבית. המכתב המלא: pic.twitter.com/Y5oOP5BiRi
— עמית סגל Amit Segal (@amit_segal) November 2, 2015
On Monday, Sau cited the authority given police by the law and said that police would enforce the ban.
“In light of police’s responsibility for the security of people and property and in light of my authority as set in the Police Order (New Version), 1971, and in light of your letter to members of Knesset from October 28, 2015 and in light of the opinion of the attorney general, I decided that until further notice the entry of MKs to the Temple Mount will be prohibited,” Sau wrote.
He added that he is “well aware of the freedom of movement granted by law to members of Knesset, and will not delay in alerting you as soon as the security situation allows this ban to be overturned.”
The Temple Mount has been at the ideological center of a recent wave of terror attacks, even as the focal point of attacks in recent shifted from Jerusalem to the West Bank, and especially to the mixed city of Hebron.
Palestinians claim Israel is planning to change conditions on the Mount in an effort to introduce more Jewish visitors there. The Israeli government insists it has no plans to do so.
Israel has been maintaining a status quo according to which all are allowed to visit the site but only Muslims are allowed to pray there.
Netanyahu has been accusing the Palestinian leadership of incitement that is spurring young Palestinians to carry out terror attacks, but he has also been making efforts to defuse sources of tension emanating from his own camp. A week ago, the prime minister rebuked Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely just hours after she said her “dream” was to see the Israeli flag fly over the Temple Mount.