January 3, 2023 | Flash Brief

Israeli Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir Visits Temple Mount

January 3, 2023 | Flash Brief

Israeli Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir Visits Temple Mount

Latest Developments

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir made an unannounced visit on Tuesday to the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, drawing protests from the Palestinians, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. Jews maintain a 3,000-year-old connection to the Temple Mount, where the two ancient Jewish temples once stood, and toward which Jews around the world face during prayer. The site is also sacred to Muslims, who call it the Noble Sanctuary, and houses the Al Aqsa Mosque, an icon of Palestinian nationalism. Ben-Gvir’s visit did not alter the mount’s status quo arrangement, which permits Israelis to visit but not pray at the site, and simply affirmed that Jews have the right to visit it.

Expert Analysis

“That Ben-Gvir’s visit passed without incident should give the Arab and Muslim world pause before radicals next try to incite religious violence against Israel with false accounts of its supposed plans for the Temple Mount. Israel has controlled the holiest of Jewish sites for more than 50 years while stringently respecting its sanctity for Muslims, and there is every sign that this will continue.”
Mark Dubowitz, FDD Chief Executive

“Ben-Gvir’s circumspect rhetoric, and the discretion and speed of the Temple Mount visit, strongly suggests that, at least for now, he has been tamed by the reality of his governing responsibilities.”
Enia Krivine, Senior Director of FDD’s Israel Program and Senior Director of FDD’s National Security Network

Ben-Gvir Remains Silent on Israeli Ban of Jewish Prayer

Ben-Gvir has previously called for an end to the Israeli police-enforced ban on Jewish prayer at the Temple Mount. As national security minister, Ben-Gvir oversees Israeli police and is in theory positioned to change that policy. But during his 15-minute tour, he kept to the standard route for Jewish visitors — staying well-clear of the Al Aqsa Mosque — and made no sign of praying or trying to pray.

Israel Seeks to Preserve the Status Quo

Ben-Gvir’s visit coincided with the 10th of Tevet, a Jewish fast commemorating the Babylonian siege of First Temple-era Jerusalem. But while noting that the Temple Mount is “the most important place for the Jewish people,” Ben-Gvir pledged that the new Israeli government would preserve freedom of movement for all faiths there. His statement made no mention of freedom of worship.

After retaking the country’s top office last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed the status quo at the Temple Mount. The Palestinian, Jordanian, and Emirati foreign ministries, however, castigated Israel over Ben-Gvir’s visit, mischaracterizing it as a “storming” of Al Aqsa Mosque. Amman also falsely accused Israel of violating the status quo.

Palestinian Leaders Deny Jewish Connection to Temple Mount

Despite abundant archeological evidence indicating the presence of the Jewish temples on the mount, Palestinian leaders have long denied any Jewish connection to the site. In 2000, when Ariel Sharon, who later became Israel’s prime minister, visited the Temple Mount, Palestinian leaders used the visit as a pretext to launch the Second Intifada. Ben-Gvir’s visit aimed in part to counter the Palestinian narrative and to make clear that Israel will not capitulate to threats of violence aimed at dissuading Jews from visiting their holiest site.

Related Analysis

Capital Offense: International Norms On Jerusalem Are A Mess,” by Shany Mor

The Tragedy of Mahmoud Abbas,” by Grant Rumley


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