Likud MK Yehudah Glick will file a petition to the High Court of Justice early next week against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his own party leader, demanding that Knesset members be allowed to visit the Temple Mount.
Since being sworn in to Israel’s parliament 10 months ago, Glick — a longtime advocate for Jewish prayer at the holy site — has sought to understand the legal basis for Netanyahu’s instruction to police to prevent Knesset members from entering the compound, according to the Yedioth Ahronoth daily.
Glick has held a series of meetings with the attorney general and the Knesset’s legal adviser, who reportedly told him that Netanyahu’s ban would not withstand a High Court challenge.
Glick even had the Jerusalem district police commander come to a Knesset hearing to testify there was no security danger from lawmakers ascending the compound, the report said.
“For a long time Knesset members, in violation of the law, have not been allowed to enter the Temple Mount. This contradicted the Basic Laws of freedom of movement and freedom of worship,” Glick said.
“Unfortunately, the prime minister has refused to talk to me about it for many months… This discrimination can not be tolerated,” he added.
Glick said that he had sought to submit the petition along with Arab MKs who also have demanded the right to visit the site since Netanyahu’s ban was instituted. “Unfortunately, they are not willing to cooperate with me on this subject,” he said.
“All the legal advisers tell me that my chances in the High Court of Justice are very high: A prime minister cannot give the police an order that is against the law,” he concluded.
The flashpoint Temple Mount, which is administrated by the Jordanian authorities, is the holiest site in Judaism, revered by Jews as the site where the biblical Temples stood.
Muslims call it the Noble Sanctuary and believe it is the spot where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven. It is the third holiest site in Islam and houses the Al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock shrine.
The Palestinians have frequently charged that Israel is trying to change longstanding understandings, in place since 1967, under which Jews are allowed to visit, but not pray at, the site. The government has repeatedly denied this.
On February 1, police denied a request of Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) to visit the complex, just one day after the Knesset Ethics Committee voted to lift a ban prohibiting lawmakers from visiting the compound. According to the Knesset committee decision, lawmakers may now visit the Temple Mount so long as they coordinate the trip ahead of time and receive permission from the police.
Ariel claimed that Netanyahu had personally ordered security officials to continue implementing the ban, despite the committee’s ruling.
In November 2015, the same committee decided to ban visits to the complex from both Jewish and Arab MKs. The prohibition was upheld again in June 2016 before being lifted on January 31.
Glick has recently voiced frustration with the conduct of Netanyahu and other Likud parliamentarians. Earlier this month, he penned an anguished account of the culture of fear within the current coalition chaired by David Bitan.
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.