MK petitions court to allow lawmaker visits to Temple Mount
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MK petitions court to allow lawmaker visits to Temple Mount

After Netanyahu reported to mull lifting order in 3 months, former activist demands to be allowed onto holy site before Passover

Likud MK Yehudah Glick outside the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on March 28, 2017. Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud MK Yehudah Glick outside the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on March 28, 2017. Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Likud lawmaker Yehudah Glick on Tuesday petitioned the High Court to force the government to allow Knesset members to visit the Temple Mount holy site after a nearly 18-month ban.

Glick, an activist who had pushed for increased Jewish presence on the tinderbox Jerusalem site before entering the Knesset last year, filed his request a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly said he would consider lifting the ban in three months.

Knesset lawmakers have been banned from visiting the Temple Mount since November 2015 as Netanyahu attempted to douse tensions related to an uptick in car-ramming and stabbing attacks.

In his petition, Glick and the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation, which he chairs, asked the court to order the attorney general to develop regulations limiting the prime minister and public security minister’s freedom to interfere in operational police decisions.

The petition asks the court to stop the police from banning lawmakers from ascending to the esplanade, and specifically to allow Glick himself to freely visit the site, like any other person, as soon as possible, or at the very latest before the eve of the Passover festival on April 10.

According to a Channel 2 news report, Netanyahu prefers to wait until after Passover and other sensitive dates in the Jewish and Muslim calendars before lifting the ban, which has remained in place despite the number of terror attacks being on the wane for nearly a year.

Speaking outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Glick said that quiet had returned to the Mount, and now was the time to change the “insufferable” situation in which people from all over the world were allowed into the site, except for Knesset members.

He added that the court move was a last resort after approaching Netanyahu, the police and the attorney general to no avail.

“The situation is insufferable and very strange, where all the people of the world can go in [to the Temple Mount] except for Knesset members, when the law in Israel says you can’t limit Knesset members’ freedom of movement, and certainly not in the one place in the world where a Jew is ordered to be,” he said.

Glick, who is the most junior Knesset member from Netanyahu’s Likud party, visited the site in May just before he was sworn in, drawing an angry response from Netanyahu.

“This is the last time you do this to me,” the prime minister could be heard telling a seemingly surprised Glick at the end of a Likud faction meeting.

“What did I do? Earlier today I called up [Public Security Minister Gilad] Erdan in the US and I told him about the whole thing,” Glick told Netanyahu in response at the time.

Other lawmakers, including both Jews and Muslims, have also complained about the ban.

Netanyahu’s decision to consider lifting the ban in three months came at a meeting on Monday at which security officials cautioned against resuming visits by lawmakers at this time.

On a tour of the Temple Mount, Yehuda Glick shows religious Jews a diagram of the Jewish temple, believed to have once stood where the golden Dome of the Rock stands today. September 17, 2013.(Christa Case Bryant/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)
On a tour of the Temple Mount, Yehuda Glick shows religious Jews a diagram of the Jewish temple, believed to have once stood where the golden Dome of the Rock stands today. September 17, 2013.(Christa Case Bryant/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism. Known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif or the Noble Sanctuary, it is also the third-holiest site in Islam.

Under the terms of the fragile status quo in place on the Mount for decades, Jews and other non-Muslims can visit but not worship there.

However, high-profile visits and rumors of changes to the status quo have preceded outbursts of violence.

The Mount itself is administered by the Muslims and it was Palestinian claims of alleged Israeli intentions to undermine that Muslim control — claims denied repeatedly by Israel — that allegedly sparked the wave of Palestinian stabbings, car-rammings and shooting attacks that began in September 2015.

Potentially sensitive dates over the next 12 weeks include Passover in April, and May’s scheduled celebration of 50 years since the reunification of Jerusalem in the Six Day War, along with the Muslim festival of Ramadan, which ends in late June.

No date has yet been set for a hearing on the petition, which names the prime minister, the public security minister, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, the Knesset’s Ethics Committee, Police Chief Roni Alsheich and Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit as defendants.

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