Despite his declaration to the contrary, on Tuesday morning MK Yehuda Glick (Likud) took advantage of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s one day “pilot program” and ascended to the Temple Mount after an absence of about a year and a half because of the PM’s ban on MKs entry.
MK Shuli Mualem (Habayit Hayehudi) was scheduled to ascend later on Tuesday.
Tuesday’s pilot will examine the influence of Knesset members’ entry into the Temple Mount compound on the behavior of other visitors. It offers the MKs a limited window of opportunity before the Muslim Holiday of the Sacrifice this coming Friday – and could be an invitation for Arab riots. In fact, in his statement earlier this week MK Glick accused the PM of cynically manipulating events and in effect inviting riots on the Temple Mount, ahead of a High Court hearing on the ban this week. If the there are riots on pilot Tuesday, government could tell the court “I told you so” on Thursday.
The pilot was decided following police recommendation to the PM a few months ago to cancel his ban, suggesting the risk for incitement to violence – by Arab MKs – was over. The police document suggested placing several conditions visiting MKs – among other things they must coordinate in advance with police. This was back in early July, and Netanyahu was going to remove his ban by the end of the month of Ramadan, but then the terror attack that left two Border Guard officers dead happened and the ban stayed.
The ban stays in effect regarding government ministers, which led Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi) to threaten to file a High Court of Justice petition against the Prime Minister to allow ministers to enter the site. This would mark the first time a serving government minister sues his PM.
A letter Ariel sent Netanyahu and Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan suggested the denial of the entry of ministers to the Temple Mount is based on the fear that the ascension of a government minister to the holy place constitutes a demonstration of sovereignty over the Temple Mount, which violates one of Israel’s constitutional laws, Basic Law: Jerusalem, the Capital of Israel.
MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) issued a statement titled, “I will not ascend to the Temple Mount tomorrow.”
“I am not ready to go to the Temple Mount as a thief in hiding, in the humiliating and illegal manner that was imposed on Knesset members,” Smotrich said.
“The Temple Mount is the most sacred place for the Jewish people and the State of Israel must exercise its sovereignty over it,” he continued. “The terms and conditions of what’s forbidden and what’s allowed that were imposed on members of the Knesset as reflected in the humiliating letter of the Knesset officer are illegal, undemocratic and unacceptable.”
“The delusional ‘pilot,’ offering MKs a hole in the wall to crawl through like thieves and almost begging the rioters to riot, is a new and unacceptable low,” Smotrich said, concluding: “I will ascend to the mountain when ministers and Knesset members are able to ascend freely and upright to realize the sovereignty of the State of Israel over the Temple Mount, and I call on the Prime Minister to permit this immediately.”
The Arab MKs also expressed their opinion on the subject too. MK Ahmed Tibi said the Arab MKs won’t go up to the Temple Mount today, “MKs from the [Arab] Joint List will not go up to the Al-Aqsa mosque today as part of the provocation and conditions of Netanyahu and the Israel Police, and the Arab MKs will enter whenever they want and not when Netanyahu wants them to. That’s the way it was and that’s the way it will be.”