A far-right Israeli minister’s visit to a contentious holy site in Jerusalem has been denounced by Palestinians as a “unprecedented provocation.”
Itamar Ben-Gvir, the minister of national security who has argued for a tougher stance against the Palestinians, toured the area while being guarded by law enforcement.
Israel and the Palestinians are profoundly divided by competing claims to the site.
With the election of Israel’s new nationalistic cabinet, tensions have increased.
Since the administration, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was sworn in five days ago, Mr. Ben-visit Gvir’s was his first public appearance.
The hilltop location is the third-holiest location in Islam and the most sacred spot in Judaism. Muslims refer to it as Haram al-Sharif, the location of Muhammad’s ascent to heaven, while Jews refer to it as the Temple Mount, the location of two Biblical temples. Muslims regard the entire complex as the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Jews and other non-Muslims are permitted to enter the site but are not permitted to do prayer; yet, Palestinians view Jewish visits as attempts to alter the delicate balance of power.
The head of the Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party, Mr. Ben-Gvir, has long advocated for changing the laws to permit Jewish prayer at the location.
He tweeted, “The Temple Mount is open to everyone,” along with a picture of himself encircled by a security perimeter with the golden Dome of the Rock in the distance.
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Mr. Ben-Gvir declared that he would demand that Benjamin Netanyahu enact “equal rights for Jews” there prior to the election in November.
But Mr. Netanyahu has made an effort to persuade Israel’s supporters that he will veto any modifications. His coalition agreements contain a stipulation stating that the current situation “with regard to the holy places” shall be maintained.
After meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and security personnel, Mr. Ben-Gvir received permission for the visit.
After the 15-minute walkaround, the Palestinian foreign ministry condemned what it called “the extremist minister Ben-storming Gvir’s of al-Aqsa mosque and considers it as an unprecedented provocation and a hazardous escalation of the conflict.”
Mr. Ben-visit, Gvir’s according to Palestinian Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, “violated all norms, principles, international accords and regulations, and Israel’s promises to the American president.” He called for “thwarting the raids that were intended to turn the al-Aqsa Mosque into a Jewish temple.”
According to AFP news agency, a spokesman for the Palestinian militant Islamist organization Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, labeled it a “crime” and vowed the site “would stay Palestinian, Arab, and Islamic.”
In his tweet, Mr Ben-Gvir sent a message of defiance to Hamas, declaring:
“No Israeli government that I’m a member of is going to bow to a despicable and murderous terror organisation… and if Hamas thinks that I’ll be deterred by its threats, it needs to accept that times have changed and that there’s a government in Jerusalem.”
In May 2021, when tensions between Israel and the Palestinians erupted into violence, Hamas launched missiles into Jerusalem, starting an 11-day war with Israel.
Palestinians were enraged when Israeli right-winger and opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited the site in 2000. The ensuing violence intensified and led to the second intifada, or uprising, of Palestinians.
The most sensitive location in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the Temple Mount, also known as Haram al-Sharif. It is located in East Jerusalem and was taken from Jordan by Israel during the Middle East conflict of 1967. A complicated set of agreements allowed Israel to take over responsibility for security and access while allowing Jordan to maintain its historical role as the site’s custodian.
Despite a ban on Jewish visits being abolished, there were still only Muslim prayers permitted. Orthodox Jewish tourists are frequently seen praying in silence without being questioned by Israeli police, according to the Palestinians, who contend that recent events have been taking place that threaten the status quo.
In recent years, Jewish visitors have increased, which, according to Palestinians, is part of a covert effort to seize control of the place.
When fighting broke out between Israel and the Palestinians in May 2021, Hamas fired missiles into Jerusalem, sparking an 11-day conflict with Israel.
Palestinians were furious when Israeli opposition leader and right-winger Ariel Sharon went there in 2000. The resulting violence worsened and sparked the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising.
The Temple Mount, also known as Haram al-Sharif, is the site of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute that is most sensitive. During the 1967 Middle East conflict, Israel captured it from Jordan and placed it in East Jerusalem. Israel assumed control of access and security while Jordan kept its historical position as the site’s custodian thanks to a convoluted system of agreements.