Lawmakers from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, including the ministers for public security and justice, on Wednesday criticized the police treatment of Temple Mount activist and former Likud MK Yehudah Glick, who was arrested twice in one day after visiting the Jerusalem holy site.
Glick was arrested at his home overnight Tuesday, after he had been handcuffed and arrested the previous morning on the Temple Mount following a visit to the site with two US Congress members and their families. Glick said his initial arrest was for “walking too slowly,” but the Israel Police alleged he had violated the strict, unwritten rules governing visits by Jews to the site.
Police also suspect Glick took police documents related to his case during his time in detention on Tuesday, and they received a search warrant to look for the documents in Glick’s home.
Glick said late Tuesday night that police officers came to his house to “harass him,” and posted photos of police officers conducting a search.
On Wednesday morning, Glick was taken in for questioning for the third time in 24 hours, bringing along the documents he had taken the previous day.
The search and arrests prompted intense criticism on social media, including from politicians to the right of Likud, less than two weeks before Knesset elections in which Likud is seeking to present itself as significantly more right-wing than centrist rivals Blue and White. Denunciations by senior Likud members soon followed.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who is in charge of the Israel Police, expressed rare public criticism of the force, calling the search of Glick’s home “invasive” and “a severe violation of his privacy and rights.”
Apologizing to Glick, Erdan said in a statement: “I am saddened by any citizen who is arrested or has their home searched. It is a severe violation of their privacy and rights, especially when talking about my friend Yehudah Glick, with whom I have taken many actions in favor of Jewish entry to the Mount.
“After the current interrogation of Yehudah I will seek to clarify the circumstances and whether there was justification for this invasive step,” Erdan said, adding in his own defense that “all the commentators should remember that the search is conducted at the approval of a judge who has examined and approved the police request, and that the minister has no authority regarding arrests and searches.”
Justice Minister Amir Ohana said he was “embarrassed” by police’s actions, mocking the allegations against Glick on Twitter.
“After he was forcibly arrested in the Temple Mount for the grave offense of ‘walking slowly’ and spent hours at a police station, my friend Yehudah was released to his home,” he wrote.
“At midnight, officers came to his home to search and check if he had obstructed the complicated investigation of the slow walking,” said Ohana. “In between, I met the two US Congress members with whom he visited the Temple Mount, and I was beside myself with embarrassment.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said: “The police’s harassment of former MK Yehudah Glick has been violent and inappropriate. It is unacceptable that in Israel policemen handcuff someone because they walked too slowly in their opinion, that a person is rattled in the middle of the night on questionable grounds, that human rights are abandoned.”
The Israel Police defended itself, saying that “last night police conducted a search in accordance with a court warrant and detained for questioning the suspect who yesterday morning disrupted order at the Temple Mount, due to offenses of obstruction of justice and theft.
“Yesterday, after the suspect’s questioning, the suspicion rose that he had stolen investigation material before leaving the interrogation room, and subsequently police requested and received a search warrant for the suspect’s house. Later in the evening officers came to his home and waited until his return at night, searched the place and detained the suspect for questioning, after which he was released under restrictive measures.”
The New York-born Glick is a veteran activist for Jewish prayer rights on the Temple Mount. He is a former director general of the Temple Institute and founded the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation.
In October 2014, he was shot and seriously wounded by a Palestinian terrorist as he left an event at the Begin Center in Jerusalem promoting Jewish visiting and prayer rights to the Mount.
He served as a Knesset member for the Likud party in 2016-2019.
After Wednesday’s interrogation, as he was leaving the police station, Glick told reporters that he had taken the documents at the end of his previous questioning by mistake, calling police’s reaction an attempt to “divert attention from the too-often humiliating treatment by police toward Jews at the Temple Mount.”
Glick claimed that his interrogator had threatened to publish embarrassing material about him if he continues to “slander” the police.
“All that interests police is their image, not the truth, not human rights, just covering up my false arrest yesterday,” he said. “The last time the Israel Police went on a demonization campaign against me, the Islamic Movement got the message and it ended with an attempted assassination. I really hope someone in the police will stop this dangerous and worrisome step before it is too late.”
Glick’s attorney, Adi Keidar, accused police of “impulsive and problematic behavior, in light of the fact that the earlier arrest was a false arrest that embarrassed the Israel Police.”
On Tuesday morning, Glick said he had been removed from the Temple Mount for “walking too slowly.”
והנה תיעוד מרגע המעצר האלים של יהודה גליק.
איש ציבור, חבר כנסת לשעבר, שהמשטרה תוקפת אותו וטוענת שהוא פרובוקטור במטרה לכסות על המעצר האלים הזה. pic.twitter.com/aJKE5zOowo
— אברהם בלוך (@avribloch) February 18, 2020
An Israel Police spokesperson, however, said that Glick was arrested after violating visiting rules at the compound. According to police, following a visit to the Temple Mount with the two United States congressmen and their families, Glick returned to the compound via the Mughrabi Gate on an uncoordinated visit and began provoking officers there.
“He [Glick] began to wander around the Temple Mount in violation of visiting rules, with which he is familiar from previous visits. He refused to adhere to police instructions and provoked officers, forcing them to detain him,” police said in a statement.
“After he continued to provoke officers they were forced to inform him that he was under arrest. When he still refused to cease his provocations, officers were forced to handcuff him. He was released from his handcuffs inside the compound and taken by police for questioning.”
Video from the scene showed Glick struggling with police as they forcibly removed him from the compound.
Located in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City, the Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and the third-holiest for Muslims, who refer to it as the Noble Sanctuary (Haram al-Sharif) or the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
Under an arrangement in place since Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six Day War, Muslims can enter and pray at the Temple Mount while non-Muslims are allowed to sometimes visit the site but not to pray there. Jews are allowed to enter in small groups during limited hours, but are taken through a predetermined route, are closely watched and are prohibited from praying or displaying any religious or national symbols, as well as various other restrictions.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.