Likud MK Miri Regev on Wednesday canceled the Knesset Interior Committee’s planned tour of the Temple Mount.
Regev, who heads the committee, decided to call off the visit to the controversial site, which was set to take place next week, at the request of the police.
“The issue of prayer arrangements on the Temple Mount and the holy places is of the utmost sensitivity and it requires a thorough examination. That said, if the planned visit has the potential to increase tension, I’m not going to go ahead with it,” Regev said.
She emphasized, however, that “cancelling the tour doesn’t mean giving up the Jews’ right to pray on Temple Mount, the holiest place for the Jewish people.”
Earlier in the week, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein approved a decision to prevent Moshe Feiglin, also from Likud, from visiting the Temple Mount, for fear that visits to the volatile holy site could spark violence and endanger Israel’s security.
“The Attorney General approved the decision based on the recommendations of law enforcement agencies,” the Justice Ministry said in a statement Monday. “The decision was based on past experience, including Feiglin’s previous actions while visiting the site, and his announcement that he would not coordinate future visits with the police. Police and defense authorities estimate that MK Feiglin’s ascent to the Temple Mount may potentially risk Israel’s security.”
Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu was behind the decision, which he based on intelligence assessments that the MK’s visit could escalate tension at the site, Army Radio reported.
A visit to the Temple Mount by then-prime ministerial candidate Ariel Sharon in 2000 is widely considered one of the sparks that led to the Second Intifada.
Few places on earth are as potentially explosive as the site, where two Jewish temples once stood. Muslims believe the Mount is where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven and call it the Noble Sanctuary. The day-to-day functioning of the site is in the hands of the Islamic Waqf, and Israeli governments have been stringent about maintaining the status quo. Because of its importance to Muslims and the inherent tension of such a place being under the control of Israel, any violence there resonates across the Islamic world and has the potential for deadly results.
At the moment, Israeli police and Waqf guards keep close tabs on visitors identifiable as religious Jews. If someone is seen moving lips in prayer, or prostrates themselves on the smooth stones of the shrine, they are expelled and detained.
Ron Friedman and Matti Friedman contributed to this report.