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Knesset members to resume Temple Mount visits

After eight-month ban, police propose allowing Muslim lawmakers to return in early July, Jewish MKs the following week

View of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, September 29, 2015 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
View of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, September 29, 2015 (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

An eight-month ban on political leaders visiting the Temple Mount is likely to be lifted by the end of June.

The Knesset Ethics Committee is set to vote Tuesday on ending the restriction it imposed on lawmakers last October amid escalating violence over the flashpoint Jerusalem holy site, including Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis and violent confrontations between security forces and Palestinians in the West Bank.

The move also follows a declaration last month by several MKs from the Arab Joint List that they would visit the Temple Mount during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began June 6, whether or not the ban remained in force.

The announcement led to a meeting two weeks ago in Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein’s office, attended by Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich and Jerusalem Police chief Yoram Halevy, at which the police officials said they no longer opposed such visits, citing an updated intelligence assessment indicating that politicians’ visits to the holy sites on the Mount were not likely to result in renewed violence.

In a compromise proposed by police, Muslim lawmakers would be allowed to renew their visits to the site in the last week of Ramadan — corresponding to the first week of July — and Jewish lawmakers would be allowed to renew their visits the following week.

MK Yehudah Glick at his swearing-in at the Knesset, May 25, 2016. (Knesset Spokesperson's Office)
MK Yehudah Glick at his swearing-in at the Knesset, May 25, 2016. (Knesset Spokesperson’s Office)

A Knesset official told the Walla news site that the continued lifting of the ban would depend on police assessments of the potential fallout from such visits.

The news was welcomed Monday by Likud MK Yehudah Glick, a controversial activist who has campaigned for allowing Jewish prayer on the Mount. Under a status quo agreement in force since Israel captured the Mount — Judaism’s holiest site and the third holiest place in Islam — in the 1967 Six Day War, Jews are allowed to visit but not pray there.

On Twitter, Glick said he “calls on all parties to join together to transform the place into a world center for peace, reconciliation and coexistence.”

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