Knesset panel upholds Temple Mount ban for MKs

Ethics committee says it will revise decision when police indicate it’s safe for lawmakers to visit the Jerusalem holy site

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)

The Knesset Ethics Committee on Tuesday upheld an eight-month ban preventing lawmakers from visiting the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, but said it would back a police decision to scale back the restrictions next month.

The committee said it had been briefed by police on the situation at the holy site, and voted “in the meantime, not to change its earlier decision.”

“However, when security officials decide to permit entry to Knesset members to the Temple Mount, the committee will convene and change its decision accordingly,” it said.

Police have proposed that Muslim lawmakers should be allowed to renew their visits to the site in the last week of Ramadan — corresponding with the first week of July — with Jewish lawmakers being allowed to renew their visits the following week.

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

Joint (Arab) List MK Ahmad Tibi, who opposes Jewish prayer at the Temple Mount, said, “Our entry or prayer is none of the ethics committee or the prime minister or the police commissioner’s business.”

“It is a natural, religious, personal, and national right,” Tibi said. “So it was and so it will be.”

Last month, several MKs from Joint List said 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.

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)

The news of the police recommendation to lift the ban was welcomed Monday by Likud MK Yehudah Glick, an 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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