Member of Knesset Basel Ghattas

Member of Knesset Basel Ghattas. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Israeli-Arab Parliamentarian Basel Ghattas inflamed tensions in Jerusalem by ascending the Temple Mount in defiance of the prime minister’s ruling. In an attempt to ease tensions, Netanyahu had ordered all Knesset members, Jews and Arabs, to avoid the site for now.

In direct violation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s order that no Members of Knesset (MKs) ascend the Temple Mount for the time being in light of the heightened Muslim violence at the site in recent weeks, MK Basel Ghattas (Joint Arab List) visited the Mount on Wednesday.

“Neither Netanyahu nor the powers of the ‘occupation’ will prevent Arabs and Muslim believers from realizing their right to pray at Al-Aqsa mosque or any holy Muslim site,” Ghattas declared.

“You have no sovereignty over Jerusalem or over Al-Aqsa mosque. You and your occupation cannot deny us or our people the right to pray and visit Al-Aqsa mosque. This sacred place will remain Arab and Islamic forever,” Ghattas said on Facebook, adding a photo of himself at the Mount.

MK Jamal Zahalka, in Parliament, had accosted Israeli security.

MK Jamal Zahalka, speaking in Parliament, had accosted Israeli security forces. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Under the prime minister’s orders, police removed Ghattas, dressed in tourist clothes, from the site.

Last month, at the height of tensions at the site, another Joint Arab List parliamentarian, MK Jamal Zahalka, visited the Mount, where he reportedly accosted Israeli security, telling them that they “have no right to be here.”

“I won’t allow any MK on any side to inflame tensions on the Temple Mount,” Netanyahu stated at a press conference Thursday.

His remarks were directed not only to the likes of Ghattas and Zahalka, but also to Jewish MKs, including Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who remarked on Monday that it was her “dream to see the Israeli flag flying on the Temple Mount.”


PM Benjamin Netanyahu issues a statement Thursday following the visit of Israeli-Arab MK Basel Ghattas to the Temple Mount. (Isaac Harari/Flash90)

The Prime Minister’s Office immediately issued a statement affirming Netanyahu’s commitment to maintaining the status quo, according to which Muslims may pray on the Mount while non-Muslims may visit but not pray. The site is administered by the Jordanian Waqf (Muslim Trust).

Hotovely also clarified that her “personal views are not government policy, and I am certainly committed to the government’s policy, as described by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday night, when he declared that there would be no change to the status quo on the Temple Mount.”

“We welcome increased coordination between the Israeli authorities and the Jordanian Waqf, including to ensure that visitors and worshipers demonstrate restraint and respect for the sanctity of the area,” Netanyahu said in a statement Saturday night, after discussing the issue with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Jordanian King Abdullah II. He also announced his decision to install surveillance cameras on the Temple Mount.

According to Netanyahu, “the cameras will transmit to us and to the people at the Waqf. But I don’t rule out that ultimately it will be transmitted everywhere. We have nothing to hide and transparency there is good for us.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hatovely at Temple Mount in May 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, seen near the Temple Mount in 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The statement called for “the immediate restoration of calm” and “appropriate steps” to be taken to restore calm. “We look forward to working cooperatively to lower tensions, stop incitement and discourage violence.”

The Temple Mount, Har HaBayit in Hebrew, is Judaism’s holiest site and the place on which the two Holy Temples stood.

Palestinian Authority (PA) official Saeb Erekat claimed that Israel would use the cameras only to track and arrest Palestinians. PA Chair Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly denied Jewish historical claims to Jerusalem, referring to the First Temple built by King Solomon as “the alleged Temple.”

Jordan slammed the PA for opposing the cameras.

Ghattas, who opposes the use of cameras, claimed that he had documented Jews praying and chanting nationalistic verses on the Mount. He ignored requests to show the documentation.

By: Terri Nir, United with Israel

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