Netanyahu Decides Lawmakers May Visit Temple Mount Once Every Three Months

For the past three years, Netanyahu has greatly restricted MKs’ access to the Mount under an agreement Israel reached with Jordan via American mediation

File photo: Police officers in Jerusalem, with Dome of the Rock in the background, in 2017.
Emile Salman

Knesset members can resume visiting the Temple Mount on a regular basis, as long as they don’t do so more than once every three months and coordinate their visits with the police in advance, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Israeli television reported Tuesday. 

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For the past three years, Netanyahu has greatly restricted MKs’ access to the complex, under an agreement Israel reached with Jordan via American mediation. The deal was reached following a wave of Palestinian attacks in Jerusalem in 2014 and 2015, which were spurred by claims that Israel planned to change the status quo at the site.

Netanyahu’s decision was first reported by Israel Television News.

The restrictions significantly curtailed lawmakers’ visits to the Temple Mount. Over the past two years, MK Yehudah Glick (Likud) has visited three times and MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Habayit Hayehudi) once. All those visits passed quietly.

Last week, Netanyahu met in Amman with King Abdullah of Jordan, but it is unknown whether they discussed the issue of MKs visiting the Mount.

On July 14, 2017, an Israeli Arab killed two Israeli policemen in a shooting attack at the entrance to the Temple Mount. Since then, however, both the complex and Jerusalem’s Old City have been relatively quiet, with almost no terror attacks this year. 

>> The real - and mythical - history of the Temple Mount >>

The past year has also seen an increase in the number of Jewish visitors to the Mount. According to the organization Yeraeh, which promotes such visits, more than 22,000 Jews have visited the Temple Mount since the Rosh Hashanah holiday last September, the highest number since Israel gained control of the site in 1967.

Last week, Glick asked Netanyahu to let Jewish MKs resume visiting the Mount, pointing out that Muslim MKs had visited the site during Ramadan. In his letter, he noted that the annual three-week mourning period for the destruction of the Temple, which Jews have observed for almost 2,000 years, was set to begin on July 1, and this period “has special significance for Jews with regard to the Temple Mount.”

Moalem-Refaeli, who co-chairs the Knesset’s caucus for strengthening Jewish ties to the Temple Mount, said Netanyahu’s new decision was “important, but it still perpetuates the discrimination against Jewish Knesset members at the Jewish people’s holiest site. 

“After a pilot in which MK Yehudah Glick and I ascended the Mount, nothing untoward happened,” she continued. “Defense officials have said many times that Knesset members ascending the Mount do not pose a risk and do not cause unrest [among the Palestinians], in contrast to the Arab incitement apparatus, which doesn’t want any Jew to set foot on the Mount. We urge the prime minister to adopt defense officials’ recommendations and enable Knesset members to ascend the Temple Mount with no restrictions, like every other Jew in Israel can.”