A day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Jordanian King Abdullah II in Amman and discussed maintaining calm on the Temple Mount, far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir vowed to continue visiting the flashpoint holy site regardless.
“I manage my own policy concerning the Temple Mount, not that of the Jordanian government,” Ben Gvir told the Kan public broadcaster on Wednesday, noting that he did not know exactly what was discussed in the Amman meeting.
“With all due respect to Jordan, Israel is an independent country,” he said. “I went up to the Temple Mount, I will continue to go up to the Temple Mount. The Temple Mount is the most important place to the Jewish people, and the State of Israel is a sovereign state, an independent state, not under the auspices of any other country.”
Ben Gvir said he was not yet certain when he expected to next visit the holy site, but he said that Netanyahu “has not tried to stop me from going up to the Temple Mount.”
According to Channel 12 news, Netanyahu made the promise more than once during the hours-long visit, and also gave assurances that Israel would protect the authority of the Islamic Waqf — a Jordanian-appointed council that administers the Temple Mount.
The site is the holiest site for Jews, as the location of two biblical temples, while the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Mount is the third holiest shrine in Islam, turning the area into a major flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Under an arrangement that has prevailed for decades under Jordan’s custodianship, Jews and other non-Muslims are permitted to visit the Temple Mount during certain hours but may not pray there. In recent years, Jewish religious nationalists, including members of the new governing coalition, have increasingly visited the site and demanded equal prayer rights for Jews there, infuriating the Palestinians and Muslims around the world.
According to a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office, Netanyahu and Abdullah on Tuesday discussed “strategic, security and economic cooperation” and the importance of the alliance between the countries.
The Jordanians in their readout focused “on the need to respect the historical and legal status quo at the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif and not to harm it.”
Earlier this month, Ben Gvir paid a visit to the Temple Mount — his first since taking office in the new government — leading to furious condemnations from the Arab world. Jordan summoned Israel’s ambassador for a dressing down.
In late December, just before the new government was sworn in, Abdullah warned Israel not to cross Jordan’s “red lines” with regard to Jerusalem’s holy sites.
In their meeting Tuesday, Netanyahu and Abdullah also discussed fears of possible violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank during the month of Ramadan in March, overlapping with Passover this year, and the need for calm, Haaretz reported.
A diplomatic source who is privy to the details told Channel 12 that Jordan’s backing was needed “to allow the situation [on the Temple Mount and its surroundings] to remain under control before Ramadan.”
Meanwhile, former Meretz chief Zehava Galon posted and later deleted a tweet comparing Ben Gvir to Nazis.
Galon posted a photo of Ben Gvir speaking at a press conference with his arm raised, as if in a Nazi salute, and with the caption “Heil Kahane” — a reference to the minister’s mentor, Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the racist Kach party.
Ben Gvir retweeted Galon’s post with the caption: “The daughter of Holocaust survivors cheapens and stabs at their memory. Zahava what would your mother and father say?”
Galon later deleted the tweet, saying she was “still waiting for racism to be deleted from the Knesset.”
Lazar Berman contributed to this report.