Ben Gvir visits Temple Mount, says recognizing Palestinian state is reward for Hamas

In 1st visit to flashpoint Jerusalem holy site since October 7, national security minister slams Norway, Spain, Ireland, insists on ‘root canal’ operation to remove Hamas in Rafah

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir (left) delivers a video statement near Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, May 22, 2024. (Screenshot: X, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir (left) delivers a video statement near Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, May 22, 2024. (Screenshot: X, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir declared from the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Wednesday that extending diplomatic recognition to a Palestinian state is tantamount to rewarding Hamas for its brutal October 7 massacre in southern Israel.

During his first visit to the Jerusalem holy site since October 7, surrounded by police officers, Ben Gvir charged in a video message that by moving to recognize a Palestinian state, Norway, Spain and Ireland were “giving a prize to Nukhba [Hamas’s elite commando unit] murderers and abusers.”

His comments came as Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Wednesday morning that their countries would make recognition official on May 28, in a joint move with Ireland, whose leader Simon Harris said he expected other countries to join an upswell of support for Palestinian statehood in the coming weeks.

“In order to destroy Hamas, we need to go into Rafah until the end, to do a root canal,” Ben Gvir also said, calling to cut off fuel deliveries to Gaza and limit supplies transferred to the enclave to humanitarian aid only.

Israel is currently carrying out limited operations in Gaza’s southernmost city, believed to be Hamas’s last main stronghold.

The flashpoint Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City is the holiest place in Judaism, as the site of the two biblical temples. Known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif or the Noble Sanctuary, the hilltop compound is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir at the Temple Mount on May 22, 2024 (Temple Mount)

Ben Gvir, who heads the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, is an ardent proponent of Jewish visitation rights on the Temple Mount and has made previous visits to the site during his tenure as minister.

A video posted to X showed Jewish members of Ben Gvir’s entourage praying, which many see as inflammatory. Muslims are allowed to pray and enter the compound with few restrictions, while Jews can visit only during limited time slots via a single gate and are not officially allowed to pray, although police frequently tolerate limited prayer.

The Kan broadcaster reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was updated about Ben Gvir’s visit ahead of time.

Ynet news and Kan quoted Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi as saying that the national security minister’s “provocative” visit to the Temple Mount was an “attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Safadi also welcomed the Norwegian, Spanish and Irish decisions to recognize a Palestinian state.

Turning to video footage of the abduction of several female hostages from the Nahal Oz base on October 7, which is due to be made public on Wednesday evening, Ben Gvir said, “Tonight we will receive further evidence of why Hamas must be totally destroyed.”

A still from footage showing the capture and abduction of Liri Albag, Karina Ariev, Agam Berger, Daniella Gilboa and Naama Levy at the Nahal Oz base on October 7, 2023 (The Hostages Families Forum)

The young hostages, all Israel Defense Forces soldiers, were kidnapped on October 7 when some 3,000 Hamas-led terrorists burst across the border from Gaza by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 252 hostages, mostly civilians, amid acts of brutality and sexual assault.

File – The torched command center of the Nahal Oz IDF base, overrun by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023, during a visit by relatives of slain lookout soldiers on December 19, 2023. (Courtesy/Eyal Eshel)

Vowing to destroy Hamas and free the hostages, Israel launched a wide-scale military offensive which has come under international criticism for its mounting death toll and the humanitarian crisis in the densely-populated coastal enclave.

Statements from far-right members of Netanyahu’s cabinet in the aftermath of October 7 and amid the ongoing war, including Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, have been cited in international media and world courts as indications that Israel endorses deliberately harming civilians and has genocidal intent against Palestinians in Gaza. Israel bitterly rejects these allegations, and has  been defending itself against them at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

It is believed that 124 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November, and four hostages were released prior to that. Three hostages have been rescued by troops alive, and the bodies of 16 hostages have also been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military.

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