PM: ‘No change yet’ as police suggest limited Temple Mount access for MKs
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PM: ‘No change yet’ as police suggest limited Temple Mount access for MKs

Year-long ban on politicians visiting the flashpoint site was put in place in bid to quell tensions behind Palestinian terror wave

An Israeli policeman patrols the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, October 21, 2015. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90, File)
An Israeli policeman patrols the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, October 21, 2015. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90, File)

Police have reportedly recommended that political leaders, including members of Knesset, be allowed to resume visits to the Temple Mount following a year-long ban imposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a bid to reduce tensions over the flashpoint holy site.

According to a Channel 2 report Tuesday, the Israel Police has proposed that cabinet ministers and MKs be allowed to visit the site as long as they fulfill 14 conditions, including prior notification of a visit, limits on visiting hours, agreeing to enter without a security entourage or journalists, and a ban on delivering speeches at the site.

Netanyahu is expected to convene top security officials in the coming days to examine the police recommendations, the Prime Minister’s Office said Tuesday in response to the report.

The prime minister “will hear their positions and then make a decision,” a PMO statement read. “Until then, there is no change in the policy.”

MKs from all religions and ethnicities were banned under police public-order powers following a visit by Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) last October during which he was filmed reciting a prayer.

Jews are allowed to visit the mount, Judaism’s holiest site and the location of the two ancient temples, but under a “status quo” agreement put in place by Israel after it captured the site from Jordanian forces in 1967, are not allowed to pray there.

The site is also venerated by Muslims as the third holiest place in Islam, after the two Arabian holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Ariel’s October 2015 visit was followed by another by Arab Joint List MK Jamal Zahalka, who was filmed at one of the gates leading to the mount attempting to physically prevent Jews from entering the site and yelling “crazy criminals, you’re all Kahanists, fascists, racists, get out of here, you hurt Muslims,” at a group of Jewish visitors.

These visits, alongside accusations by Palestinian preachers that Israel was secretly plotting to “destroy” the al-Aqsa Mosque at the site and campaigns by Jewish lawmakers to allow Jewish prayer there, were seen by many, including Israeli and Palestinian security officials, as contributing to tensions that helped stoke violent clashes in Jerusalem and the wave of Palestinian terror attacks launched in October 2015.

As part of efforts to calm the tensions, Netanyahu ordered police to prevent all political leaders, including government ministers and MKs, from visiting the site. The ban was initially for eight months, but has been renewed numerous times since its first expiration date in June.

Police had reportedly already recommended lifting the ban in June, but Netanyahu has kept it in place, a decision later backed by lawmakers.

File: Temple Mount activist Yehudah Glick walks by Israeli police officers after leaving the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem's Old City, October 10, 2013. (Sliman Khader/Flash90)
File: Temple Mount activist Yehudah Glick walks by Israeli police officers after leaving the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, October 10, 2013. (Sliman Khader/Flash90)

On his twitter feed Tuesday, Likud MK Yehudah Glick called on Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to accept the reported police recommendations. Glick is a leading activist calling for Jewish prayer and visits to the Temple Mount.

Glick himself was banned from visiting the site in September 2014, after a Muslim woman filed charges claiming an altercation at the site led to him pushing her and breaking her arm. Glick has denied the allegations.

A Palestinian gunman attempted to kill Glick in an October 2014 shooting attack outside Jerusalem’s Begin Center that left the activist seriously wounded.

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