Police have increased security around far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir to the maximum level, following his visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Thursday.
According to Hebrew media reports, police determined that the threat level to Ben Gvir is 6 out of a maximum of 6, meaning he will be escorted by security guards at all times and additional security will be placed outside his house.
The firebrand MK’s visit to the Temple Mount included a 15-minute walk around, while escorted by police. The visit sparked concerns it could significantly raise already heightened tensions and spark fresh violence ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Ben Gvir said he had received death threats on social media ahead of his visit, including from the Gaza-based terror group Hamas.
Ben Gvir said threats came from the Hamas spokesman, “and I advise him to shut up. I don’t know why the Israeli government doesn’t eliminate him in a targeted strike. He’s a terrorist,” he said.
“The message of my visit is simple: I don’t surrender and I don’t fold,” he said during his walk around the site. “The State of Israel must not give in to those terrorists who want to murder us all.”
Follow up: Israeli right-wing Kenesset member Ben Gvir is currently in Al Aqsa Mosque Yard along with intensive ISF presence pic.twitter.com/lIwcxtTpVF
— Local Focus – Security Alerts (@LocalFocus1) March 31, 2022
He called the Waqf Muslim authorities who administer the religious sites on the mount “terrorists,” and said that “whoever controls the Temple Mount controls the Land of Israel. The enemy understands this too.”
Police approval for the MK’s visit to the flashpoint holy site came following a situational assessment early Thursday morning.
The police approval was met with condemnation from some other politicians, who have sought to both address security concerns and calm tensions as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan approaches, amid fears that Jewish-Arab violence seen in May 2021 could rear its head again.
Ram Ben Barak, the head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, said the police had erred in allowing Ben Gvir’s visit to go ahead. “Ben Gvir and Hamas have a common interest — to stir up trouble,” said Ben Barak, a Yesh Atid MK and former deputy head of the Mossad. “As far as Ben Gvir is concerned, if the visit passes without incident, it will be a missed opportunity.”
In a statement, the opposition Joint List of Arab parties accused police of being as much of a problem as “the pyromaniac Ben Gvir.”
“The government will bear responsibility for any escalation of violence that comes as a result of Ben Gvir’s provocations,” it said, accusing both the MK and police of sparking the violence in May, which began with Hamas firing rockets into Israel in response to the eviction of Palestinian families from homes in Jerusalem.
Israel has been rocked by a series of deadly terror attacks since last week, leaving 11 dead and raising fears of a prolonged wave of Palestinian violence. On Tuesday, five people were killed by a Palestinian gunman who opened fire at passersby in Bnei Brak. That came after attacks last week and on Sunday in Beersheba and Hadera by Islamic State terror group supporters that left six dead.
Despite the violence, Ben Gvir, a member of the ultra-hardline Religious Zionism party, had vowed to visit the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, to mark the start of the Hebrew month. He had warned that blocking him from the compound would “send a message of capitulation to terrorism and only further stoke the flames.”
Many consider Ben Gvir a provocateur, whose previous visits to sensitive sites, including the East Jerusalem Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood last spring, have served to ratchet up tensions and fighting.