Israeli Police Minister invites visit to Temple Mount

Israeli Police Minister invites visit to Temple Mount

Despite numerous warnings of an escalation of the conflict with the Palestinians, Israel’s Minister of National Security visited the holy site in Jerusalem. The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs speaks of an “unprecedented provocation”.

Despite the warnings, Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Tuesday for the first time since taking office. According to Israeli media reports, he arrived at the holy site in the old city early in the morning accompanied by police. Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic organization that governs the Gaza Strip, had previously warned against such a visit by Ben-Gvir and threatened further serious escalation.

The Temple Mount (Al-Haram al-Sharif) with the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. But it is also sacred to Jews because there were two Jewish temples there in ancient times. The Temple Mount is under Muslim administration, while Israel is responsible for security. According to an agreement with the Muslim authorities, Jews are allowed to visit the premises but not to pray there. However, there are always violations. Ben-Gvir criticized this arrangement as “racist” and discriminating against Jews. Palestinians accuse Israel of wanting to expand its control over the holy site.

“Unprecedented provocation”

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry condemned Ben-Gvir’s visit in the strongest possible terms, describing it as an “invasion of Al-Aqsa Mosque by the extremist minister” and an unprecedented provocation and dangerous escalation of the conflict.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid tweeted on Monday: “Itamar Ben-Gvir must not visit the Temple Mount, this is a provocation that will lead to violence that will endanger human lives and cost human lives.”

The second Palestinian Intifada uprising began in 2000 after a demonstrative visit by then opposition leader Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount.

clashes with security forces

There is no indication that Ben-Gvir also prayed during his visit to the Temple Mount. Still, his move is likely to exacerbate tensions. In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, there were repeated clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians. According to Palestinian witnesses and medics, soldiers killed a Palestinian youth on Tuesday before Ben-Gvir’s visit. Initially, there was no comment from the Israeli army.

On Monday, the Israeli army said it had killed two Palestinian militants in clashes near the occupied West Bank city of Jenin. The clashes began with the demolition of the homes of two Palestinians killed by the military in September.

Ben-Gvir, of far-right Ozma Jehudit, had previously been convicted of racist hate speech and supporting a Jewish terrorist organization. He is considered a political firebrand, especially where Palestinians are concerned. He is part of Benjamin Netanyahu’s new religious right-wing government, which was sworn in on Thursday in Israel.