Ban on MKs visiting Temple Mount ‘likely’ to be extended
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Ban on MKs visiting Temple Mount ‘likely’ to be extended

Seven-day trial period was set to start next week; Likud MK who petitioned High Court against restriction calls on PM to 'fulfill promises' to open site

Raoul Wootliff covers politics, corruption and crime for The Times of Israel.

Police Chief Roni Alsheich (2r) visits the Temple Mount after a terror attack on July 14, 2017. (Police spokesperson)
Police Chief Roni Alsheich (2r) visits the Temple Mount after a terror attack on July 14, 2017. (Police spokesperson)

The planned lifting of a ban on Israeli lawmakers visiting the Temple Mount in Jerusalem may be delayed following a terror attack at the flashpoint site last week, a Knesset member fighting against the restriction warned Sunday, while calling on the government to fulfill its commitment to ease the constraints on lawmakers.

The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed to The Times of Israel that no decision had been made yet, indicating that the possibility of pushing off the measure was being discussed.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered Jewish and Muslim lawmakers off the site a year and a half ago, after the outbreak in October 2015 of a wave of Palestinian violence and terror attacks centered around claims that Israel was attempting to take control of the Temple Mount compound.

Last week, following discussions with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, the prime minister decided that the ban would be lifted on July 23 for a period of seven days to assess the fallout from the move.

But in light of Friday’s terror attack at the Temple Mount in which three Arab-Israeli Muslims shot dead two Israeli police officers, it “appears likely” that the plan will be delayed and the site will remain closed to MKs, a spokesperson for MK Yehuda Glick, a lawmaker from Netanyahu’s Likud party, said Sunday. Glick is an activist for the right to Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, and was reacting to reports that police were considering keeping the restrictions intact.

Border Police officers deployed in the Old City of Jerusalem after a shooting attack on the Temple Mount left three people injured, two of them seriously, on July 14, 2017. (Israel Police)
Border Police officers deployed in the Old City of Jerusalem after a shooting attack on the Temple Mount left three people injured, two of them seriously, on July 14, 2017. (Israel Police)

A spokesperson for the police declined to comment on the ban on Knesset members or possible plans to push off lifting it.

The Temple Mount compound was closed to the public after the Friday morning terror attack. After a Saturday night consultation with security officials, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered a gradual reopening of the site to Muslim worshipers starting Sunday at noon.

The closure, which drew furious complaints from the Jordanian-appointed Waqf Muslim trust that administers the compound, was the first time the site was closed since 1969.

The decision to allow MKs back at the site came after Glick, who has campaigned for Jewish rights at the site and was a frequent visitor there until the ban was enforced, filed a High Court of Justice court petition against the ban.

Speaking to the Times of Israel Sunday, Glick said that last week’s terror attack was no justification to keep the ban in place.

“I can’t see a reason why it shouldn’t be opened. I think the decision to stop MKs entering the Temple Mount was a mistake in the first place,” Glick said. “If the Temple Mount is not opened for MKs, a new status quo will be determined where MKs are not allowed to go on the Mount at all – a status quo that is very dangerous.”

 On a tour of the Temple Mount, Yehuda Glick shows religious Jews a diagram of the Jewish temple, which once stood where the golden Dome of the Rock stands today on Sepetember 17, 2013 in Jerusalem Israel. (Photo by Christa Case Bryant/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images via JTA)
On a tour of the Temple Mount, Yehuda Glick shows religious Jews a diagram of the Jewish temple, which once stood where the golden Dome of the Rock stands today on September 17, 2013 in Jerusalem Israel. (Photo by Christa Case Bryant/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images via JTA)

Glick, who in November 2014 before becoming a member of parliament, was shot by a Palestinian assailant due to his campaigning for Jewish prayer rights on the Temple Mount, called on Netanyahu “to fulfill his promises to open the Temple Mount to MKs.”

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest site in Islam. High-profile visits by Israeli officials and rumors of changes to the status quo have preceded outbursts of violence.

In September 2015, tensions between Israelis and Palestinians escalated into near-daily attacks amid false speculation that Israel sought to change the status quo at the Temple Mount, under which Jews are allowed to visit, but not pray, at the site. Israel has repeatedly denied seeking any change to arrangements which have been in place since 1967. The site is managed by an Islamic foundation under the auspices of Jordan — the Waqf — but Israel controls access.

In October 2016 police advised that Jewish and Arab MKs could renew visits to the site.

The opinion was based on a review presented by the Jerusalem region police to Commissioner Roni Alsheich and Public Security Minister, GIlad Erdan. Police listed 14 conditions for MKs to visit, including notifying ahead of time that they plan to visit, visiting in morning hours only, and arriving without a security detail or media accompaniment. Police also demanded that MKs not make any speeches at the site.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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