Netanyahu Orders Police to Bar Jewish Politicians From Entering Temple Mount

The premier issued the directive before his visit to New York. The step is intended to subdue violence and reduce tensions with Jordan.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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MK Uri Ariel visiting the Temple Mount.
MK Uri Ariel visiting the Temple Mount.Credit: Michal Fattal
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

In the context of the attempts to subdue the violence in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and reduce tensions with Jordan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the police to prevent ministers and Knesset members from entering the Temple Mount, Haaretz has learned.

The order will be in effect until further notice, according to the source, who is a senior official involved in the issue.

Netanyahu gave his directive during a security consultation last week, prior to his departure for the United Nations General Assembly in New York, and mentioned it during a subsequent cabinet meeting, the official said.

The prime minister has not yet formally informed the cabinet ministers of his directive via the cabinet secretary. It is possible that he will update them during next Sunday's cabinet meeting.

Netanyahu stressed during the cabinet meeting last Monday night that the Temple Mount is the focal point of the current unrest and that it is necessary to refrain from any activity that might escalate the situation, including visits to the sanctuary by Jewish Israeli politicians. The directive does not apply to Arab MKs.

The source added that Netanyahu can threaten to dismiss any minister visiting the Temple Mount, but cannot prevent Knesset members from doing so. For that reason, he directed the police to prevent their entry to the sanctuary.

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel visited the Temple Mount about three weeks ago, after a long absence. His visit was publicized by right-wing organizations, which led to officials in the Palestinian Authority describing it as an Israeli provocation.

Senior Jordanian officials maintained that the visit contravened guarantees given by Netanyahu to King Abdullah during a meeting in Amman in November 2014.

On Wednesday evening, after a week of avoiding making statements against Israel, Abdullah resumed attacking the Israeli government over their policy Temple Mount. During a meeting with Sunni clerics from around the Muslim world Adbullah said that "Jordan maintains diplomatic and legal options to counter Israeli violations against the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Al-Haram al-Sharif compound in Jerusalem if they persist." The Jordanian leader did not elaborate on what these options were.

"We are doing our duty toward Jerusalem, by all means available, and we will not be discouraged by the region's problems and crises from doing so," the Jordanian leader added.

In recent weeks, Netanyahu has declared virtually daily that Israel is not attempting to change the status quo on the Temple Mount and is committed to the understandings reached between himself and Abdullah.

Isaac Molho, the prime minister's emissary, speaks every few days with the Jordanian foreign minister in order to reduce the level of tension between the two countries.

Netanyahu's decision to bar ministers and Knesset members from entering the Temple Mount was one of the factors leading to a slight reduction in the tension with Jordan. Over the past 10 days, the criticism by senior officials of the Hashemite Kingdom has decreased slightly.

The lowering of the tone was palpable in Abdullah's speech at the UN, during which he refrained almost entirely from mentioning the issue and did not attack Israel.

Netanyahu's bureau acknowledged the details of his directive to the police and stressed that the National Security Council in the Prime Minister's Office had instructed the police to bar visits by ministers and Knesset members to the Temple Mount.

"The prime minister acted responsibly and issued his directive in order not to enflame the situation on the Temple Mount," sources in the bureau said.

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