Extreme-right MK Ben Gvir visits Temple Mount: ‘We demand full sovereignty’

Lawmaker blocked from site 3 weeks ago after failing to coordinate his visit with police

MK Itamar Ben Gvir visits the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, on June 27, 2021. (Screenshot: Facebook)
MK Itamar Ben Gvir visits the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, on June 27, 2021. (Screenshot: Facebook)

Far-right Religious Zionism MK Itamar Ben Gvir visited Jerusalem’s Temple Mount on Sunday morning after being barred from the site earlier this month when he failed to coordinate the visit with authorities.

“I visited the Temple Mount this morning, accompanied by police after a threatening video was distributed by certain Arabs. We will never give up the Temple Mount. The holiest site for the people of Israel,” Ben Gvir tweeted shortly after his visit. It was unclear what video the lawmaker was referring to.

“The situation is improving, but our demand is full sovereignty, hoisting the Israeli flag and the removal of all Waqf authorities seeking to harm Jews. The threats against me only encourage me to keep going,” Ben Gvir added.

Earlier this month Ben Gvir said he attempted to visit the site in response to police canceling a planned nationalist march through the Old City — which took place on a later date. The opposition MK did not coordinate his visit with the Knesset Guard and the Shin Bet at the time, and police said his visit could harm state security.

Lawmakers are required to notify police of planned visits to the Jerusalem holy site 24 hours in advance.

The Temple Mount is the holiest place in Judaism, as the site of the biblical Temples. It is also the site of the third-holiest shrine in Islam, the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Israel captured the Temple Mount and Jerusalem’s Old City in the 1967 Six Day War and applied its sovereignty over the entire city but allowed the Jordanian Waqf religious authority to continue to manage the sacred compound. Jews are allowed to visit there under restrictions, but not to pray.

Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai wrote last month in his denial of Ben Gvir’s request to enter the site that his visit “could, with a high degree of certainty, lead to an increase in tensions on the Temple Mount and provoke disturbances that will even radiate to wider circles, to the point of harming the state’s security.”

The request, submitted correctly this time, was accepted.

Ben Gvir’s visit is seen as an inconvenience for new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who is attempting to keep the razor-thin majority government together and avoid any incidents that could break the coalition of diverse parties apart.

Ben Gvir entered the Knesset in March’s election after merging his Otzma Yehudit party with the far-right Religious Zionism party, in a deal brokered by then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Otzma Yehudit is made up of followers of the late racist rabbi Meir Kahane, a former MK whose Kach party was banned from the Knesset in the 1980s — the first instance of a party being banned for racism. Otzma Yehudit supports encouraging emigration of non-Jews from Israel and expelling Palestinians and Israeli Arabs who refuse to declare loyalty to Israel and accept diminished status in an expanded Jewish state whose sovereignty extends throughout the West Bank.

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