Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering lifting a nearly 18 month-old ban forbidding ministers and lawmakers from visiting the flashpoint Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Channel 2 reported on Monday
The decision was apparently made at a meeting on Monday, which was attended by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Netanyahu confidante Yitzhak Molcho and representatives of the internal security services and police.
Visits will be permitted again in three months, after the passage of politically sensitive dates in the Jewish and Muslim calendars, the report said.
These include Passover in April, and May’s scheduled celebration of 50 years since the reunification of Jerusalem in the Six Day War, along with the Muslim festival of Ramadan, which ends in late June.
The number of visits permitted will rise gradually, subject to conditions on the ground and possibly to police restrictions, Channel 2 News reported.
The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism. Known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif or the Noble Sanctuary, it is the third-holiest site in Islam.
Under the terms of the fragile status quo in place on the Mount for decades, Jews and other non-Muslims can visit, but cannot worship there.
The Mount itself is administered by the Muslims and it was Palestinian claims of alleged Israeli intentions to undermine that Muslim control that allegedly sparked the current wave of Palestinian stabbings, car-rammings and shooting attacks that began in September 2015.
Likud lawmaker Yehuda Glick — the Knesset member most closely associated with the campaign to allow Jewish prayer at the site — threatened last week that he would file a petition to the High Court of Justice this week against Netanyahu and the Likud Party for prohibiting Knesset members’ visits to the Holy site.
This was evidently a key reason for Monday’s meeting.
Channel 2 reported that security figures expressed concern about allowing politicians to visit at this time, and that figures were presented showing a 40 percent increase in [non-politician] Jewish visitors to the site, although it was not clear over which period of time.
Saying that he could not understand why a waiting period of three “unnecessary” months was needed, Glick tweeted that he had decided to go ahead with his petition to the High Court anyway, to prevent the possibility of any further delay .
He said it was “regretful to think that it took my threat to petition the High Court to lead to the decision [to resume Temple Mount visits], which was made public this evening.”
Glick has been meeting with Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and the Knesset’s legal adviser Eyal Yinon who reportedly told him that Netanyahu’s ban would not withstand a High Court challenge.
He said on Twitter that he had been working for 10 months to reverse the Temple Mount prohibition, claiming that Erdan, Israel police and the Knesset Ethics Committee had all withdrawn objections to visits by lawmakers some time ago.