Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has filed a complaint with the Knesset Ethics Committee against an Arab Knesset member for visiting Jerusalem’s Temple Mount complex despite a prohibition on lawmakers visiting the holy site.
Joint (Arab) List MK Ahmad Tibi’s July visit to the Temple Mount came during a period of mounting tensions surrounding the complex, after three Arab Israel terrorists shot dead two policemen using weapons that were smuggled into the site.
In a letter to the committee, Erdan accused Tibi of endangering public security by visiting the site “in an open and demonstrative manner” at a “sensitive and turbulent time.”
“There is no doubt that Tibi’s ascension to the Mount, which he was aware the Ethics Committee had established was prohibited, endangered public safety and security and could have incited and provoked others to carry out violent acts in response,” Erdan wrote, according to a Channel 2 news report Monday.
“Tibi’s actions should be treated with particular severity in light of the fact they were committed at the height of the tensions and a few days after a reminder was sent by the Knesset speaker of the existence of the ban,” he added.
Erdan called for the Knesset Ethics Committee to impose sanctions on Tibi “that fit the severity of his actions.”
The public security minister’s decision to file a complaint came after a meeting he held with senior police officers, who complained they were unable to take action against Tibi over his visit to the site, which they said further inflamed the atmosphere following the July 14 terror attack.
In a filmed response published Monday, Tibi called police’s behavior “scandalous,” saying they had asked Erdan to take action against him despite knowing he has immunity as a member of Knesset and did not commit a crime.
Tibi said that as a Muslim he can visit the Temple Mount’s Al-Asqa Mosque “whenever I want,” and called the prohibition on lawmakers visiting the site “illegal.”
“The order from the prime minister or the police to prevent Muslim Knesset members from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque is irresponsible and illegal,” he said.
He accused police of “inciting” Erdan to file the complaint with the Knesset Ethics Committee.
“This is the same police that closes cases [and] doesn’t recommend filing indictments against those who shot Arab citizens, killed them or murdered them,” said Tibi. “Therefore there is a double standard.”
Netanyahu ordered the ban on ministers and lawmakers from visiting the Temple Mount in October 2015 in a move apparently aimed at reducing a surge in Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis and violent clashes between security forces and Palestinian rioters.
The decision came after a number of Jewish politicians had made public visits to the site, including Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) and MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home), who was filmed days earlier yelling and cursing at a Palestinian woman there.
Although the ban was subsequently extended to Arab lawmakers, three Muslim MKs later announced they would defy it, and at least two visited the site.
In August, police said Knesset members would be allowed to enter the Temple Mount for one day as part of a “trial” coordinated with the Prime Minister’s Office. MKs Yehudah Glick (Likud) and Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Jewish Home) days later visited the site, the first time Jewish lawmakers had been up on the Mount since October 2015.
Tibi said at the time their visit was a “provocation.”
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.