There should be separate days for Jewish and Muslim prayer on the Temple Mount, Knesset Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev (Likud Beytenu) said Monday.
Speaking at a raucous meeting on the police’s treatment of Jewish visitors to the holy site ahead of Succot, she said, “We will allow Jews to visit the Mount, and we don’t want to disturb Muslims who are praying.
Why don’t the police decide that if Muslims don’t allow Jews to visit without disturbances, we’ll have days for Jews to access the Mount and days for Muslims?” MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL-Ta’al) said Jewish visitors disturbed Muslim worshipers, but that the “occupation is temporary and the government in east Jerusalem is temporary. The crusaders passed, the British passed and so will the Israelis.”
Tibi warned that any change in the current situation on the Temple Mount would be seen as “a declaration of war” and set off violence.
“You need to use your judgment and think about whether you want to spark a fire in the most sensitive place in the region. [Former prime minister] Ariel Sharon’s stupid surprise visit [in 2000] was enough to set off an intifada,” Tibi claimed.
In 2001, Palestinian Authority communications minister Imad al-Faluji told the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir that “whoever thinks the intifada broke out because of the despised Sharon’s visit to al-Aksa Mosque is wrong…. This intifada was planned in advance.”
Monday’s meeting quickly deteriorated into a shouting match between the two Arab MKs present – Tibi and Taleb Abu Arar (UAL-Ta’al) – and everyone else.
MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud Beytenu), who rebelled against the coalition because he had been banned from the Mount, decided to “review some history for MK Abu Arar: The First and Second Temples were on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for many years, when your ancestors were worshiping idols and the sun and the moon in Saudi Arabia or wherever.”
“You think you were [in Israel] before us?” Abu Arar asked incredulously.
“Yes, long before you,” Feiglin retorted.
Temple Mount Heritage Foundation founder Yehuda Glick described limitations police had set for him and other Jewish visitors to the site and the barrage of rocks thrown at them on Rosh Hashana.
“Why would Jews want to go to the Temple Mount anyway?” Abu Arar interrupted.
“Same thing as you, to pray,” Regev retorted.
“I don’t tell you that Mecca isn’t holy. I don’t tell you what’s holy or not for your religion,” Glick said. “The Temple Mount is the heart of the Jewish people.”
Jerusalem District Police chief Yossi Pariente described efforts to protect Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount, such as forbidding Muslims who were planning to disturb Jewish prayer from entering the site, as well as arresting Islamic Movement northern branch leader Sheikh Raed Salah for incitement and banning him from entering Jerusalem for 180 days.
On Rosh Hashana, police arrested five Muslim men for throwing rocks at Jews on the Temple Mount, he added.
“If the police put in all this effort and Glick is still pelted with rocks when he visits the Temple Mount on a holy day and can only access a limited area of the site, isn’t that a failure on the police’s part?” Feiglin asked.
Feiglin accused police of “not knowing the facts” about government policy on the Temple Mount because police Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino had written, in response to a letter from the MK, that the Wakf Muslim Religious Trust controls the site as a result of a 1968 government decision.
“Can the police show me the government decision? No.
There never was one,” Feiglin stated. “The police is granting sovereignty over the Temple Mount to a body under Jordanian control without any [Israeli] government decision.”
He suggested that police close the site to Muslims during Succot so Jews could pray safely.
“The police are enacting a government policy,” MK David Tsur (Hatnua) pointed out. “We need to have this discussion with Religious Affairs Minister [Naftali Bennett] and the Prime Minister’s Office, not the police.”
MK Orit Struck (Bayit Yehudi) suggested that police “make the minimum operative decision” to only allow Arab men over 45 to access the Temple Mount on Jewish holidays and to behave less roughly toward Jewish families with children approaching the site.
Abu Arar insisted that “Jews have no reason to be on al- Aksa Mount” and claimed that there were rabbis who said the Temple was not in Jerusalem.
“It doesn’t help you to shout, ‘It’s mine, it’s mine.’ I can do the same thing. Let’s look at the history books,” said MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi). “Jews have the right to go to the Temple Mount. It’s my right as much as it’s Tibi’s right, because we’re people whose faiths say the Temple Mount is holy.”
Regev closed the meeting by saying that “nothing bad will happen if Jews, Muslims and Christians are all allowed to pray at a site that’s holy to them.”
“This is incitement,” Tibi protested.
However, Regev stated that “we don’t want to close the mosque or even pray there. We just want Jews to be able to go up to the Temple Mount and pray without rocks being thrown at them. In a civilized country, everyone should be able to pray where they want. The status quo needs to change through dialogue.”