After more than two years during which MKs were barred from visiting the Temple Mount, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday allowed MKs’ ascent to the Holiest Jewish site. Netanyahu sent a letter to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, announcing that every MK can visit the Temple Mount once every three months. The new permit includes government ministers.
The MKs visits to the Temple Mount was blocked in November 2015 after it turned out that MKs, especially Arab lawmakers, were causing violent provocations. Recently, Jerusalem Police District Commander Major General Yehoram Halevy recommended to Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh to renew the visits.
As was to be expected, the Joint Arab List expressed its opposition to the very idea of the prime minister’s intervening in Temple Mount visits.
“Netanyahu will not tell Muslims, MKs and others, when to enter and when to pray. For non-Muslims, there is nothing to look for in that place,” MK Haneen Zoabi declared, adding, “Netanyahu wants to lead to a conflagration in order to escape from the criminal cases against him and the threat of dismantling the coalition … Leave the mosques alone.”
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi) responded to the prime minister’s decision, saying: “The Temple Mount should be open to prayer for Jews throughout the year, including elected officials. The Muslims are not the owners of the Temple Mount and we must not accept the threats and violence that caused restrictions on the Temple Mount. I call on the prime minister to open the Temple Mount to unconditional Jewish prayers for all who wish to do so.”
Chairman of the Lobby for Strengthening the Jewish Connection to the Temple Mount, MK Yehuda Glick (Likud), said: “I congratulate the Prime Minister who stopped the illegal and unreasonable prohibition on the ascent of the MKs to the Temple Mount, and call on him to complete the welcome change and to allow Knesset Members to come to the Temple Mount at any time, like any citizen or tourist is entitled to.”