Police keep MK off Temple Mount
Police officers physically blocked Likud MK Yehiel Hazan from going up to the Temple Mount twice yesterday morning. The second time came after police spent half an hour explaining to him that he would be endangering himself as well as the people gathered to pray at the Western Wall, below the Temple Mount.
Hazan said he remained unconvinced, but eventually left the area.
"This was the failure of the police who were getting involved in extraneous matters," Hazen told Channel Two TV afterward, when asked whether he would characterize his attempt to visit the Temple Mount a success or failure.
"When I asked the police officer, `Are you absolutely certain there will be violence,' he said `Listen, I'm not sure. This is only an assessment, therefore I ask you not to go up to the Temple Mount,'" the Likud MK said.
Hazan, who heads the Yesha (West Bank and Gaza) lobby in the Knesset, arrived at the Western Wall plaza yesterday morning and repeated his determination to go up to the Mount, but police told him he was not allowed to go up due to "security considerations."
He waved his Knesset member identity card, but police officers told him it didn't give him the license to visit the Mount. Police have warned that a visit to the holiest site in Judaism and one of the holiest in Islam could lead to severe rioting and bloodshed.
The Waqf, or Muslim religious trust, yesterday called on all Palestinians and Muslims in Israel to "protect the Mount from attempts of Jewish extremists to force their way into the compound."
The Waqf's announcement, which was published in the Palestinian media, came on the heels of Hazan's decision to visit the Temple Mount yesterday, on Tisha B'Av, the traditional Jewish day of mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Temples.
Security sources in Jerusalem said yesterday that the Waqf's call for Palestinians to come to the capital and defend the Temple Mount was published on direct orders from Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. The sources said Arafat was pulling the strings from his Ramallah headquarters in a continual effort to keep tension on the Mount at a high, even forbidding the Waqf from reaching an agreement with Israel that would facilitate reopening the site.
As police gathered around Hazan to keep him from going up to the Mount, he repeated his claim that no police officer has discussed the situation with him or had expressly asked him not to visit the site. Hazan told police that if they cared about democracy and the rule of law, they would explain their reasons.
Police at first refused to provide details, but then took the lawmaker away from the mob of supporters, protesters and media to explain the security considerations involved. Hazan said he was not convinced and tried unsuccessfully a second time to go up to the Mount.
Hazan told Israel Radio that Public Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi asked him not to go on Tisha B'Av, but said he didn't think a visit would lead to security trouble.
"Just as I walk freely throughout Israel, I will go up to the Temple Mount," Hazan said.
Meanwhile, Likud MK Inbal Gavrieli said yesterday that she would not visit the Temple Mount despite her declaration the day before. "I will go up to the Temple Mount, period," Inbal declared on Wednesday.
Gavrieli said she had been persuaded by senior security officials who gave her "specific information" Wednesday night indicating that an attempt to go up to the Temple Mount could create serious disturbances.
"If it's a matter of going up to the Temple Mount at the expense of human life just so I can say I kept my word, then I can live with [my decision not to go]," Gavrieli told Israel Radio.
She added that her decision did not reflect a change in her underlying beliefs, saying, "This constitutes no, and I mean no, concession in principle over the right to go up to the Temple Mount."
MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union) also decided yesterday not to visit the Temple Mount as he had planned.
MKs from the left as well as Shinui ministers attacked their colleagues' decision to visit the Temple Mount at this time. National Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky (Shinui) said, "Apparently there are some MKs who are sick and tired of the quiet and they want to reignite the intifada."