MK Miri Regev, the newly elected chair of the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee, wasted no time after her appointment on Wednesday to make an inflammatory announcement: She will visit the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and examine the possibility of securing the return of Jewish prayer at the red-hot site.
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Regev, who was officially selected as committee head on Wednesday morning, said just after the appointment, "I don't understand why a Jew is not allowed to pray in the most sacred place for him - the Temple Mount."
The Jerusalem site is one of the most contested in the world and the historical home of both Islam's third-holiest shrine and both ancient Jewish temples. Currently, visitors to the site who are recognized as religious Jews and seen to be visibly praying are expelled.
Regev added that she intends to make the issue of prayer arrangements at the Western Wall one of the aims of the committee and considers the topic to be one of her new responsibilities.
In response, MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu) said, "We definitely should be allowed to visit the Temple Mount." He expressed great indignation that even today as an MK, he is prohibited from entering the Temple Mount.
Deputy Finance Minister Mickey Levy, who served as commander of the Jerusalem District in the Israel Police, waged heavy criticism against Regev's plans. Levy is the only coalition representative to publicly condemn her initiative.
"This is a provocative and unnecessary move that could inflame the area and lead to grave consequences. I hope that after she got the headline she was after, she will drop this dangerous and irresponsible idea and go back to running committee meetings where they belong – in the Knesset," Levy said.
A visit from an Israeli politician to the Temple Mount is regarded as an inflammatory act. The visit by opposition head Ariel Sharon on September 28, 2000 is generally seen as one of the sparks that ignited the second intifada. The following day, riots broke out in Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank, and seven Palestinians were killed by police fire.
But tourists and Jewish travelers began trickling back to the Temple Mount in 2003, and since then MKs and ministers have visited the Temple Mount several times without provoking any riots. Visitors in recent years included MK Uri Ariel, Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon and former MKs Arieh Eldad and Yoel Hasson. MK Moshe Feiglin tried to visit the Temple Mount several times over the past year. His last attempt was following his appointment to the position of MK at the beginning of March.