Ethics Committee: Ban on MKs Visiting Temple Mount to Remain in Place for Now

Next week, the committee will consider lifting the ban on Muslim Knesset members in accordance with police assessment.

Muslim women pray in front of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City during the holy month of Ramadan, June 7, 2016.
Ammar Awad, Reuters

The Knesset Ethics Committee decided on Tuesday not to lift the ban on MKs visiting the Temple Mount for the time being. Jerusalem District Police Commander Yoram Halevy told the committee that the police would make an assessment next week as to whether Muslim lawmakers could be permitted on the Temple Mount for Ramadan. A week or two after that, the police may also allow Jewish MKs to visit the premises.

Last November, police banned MKs from the site, which was home to the two Jewish Temples in the past and now houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, due to tensions between Jews and Muslims. The Ethics Committee decided to classify such a visit as an ethical violation.

Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen recently contacted Police Chief Roni Alsheich regarding the ban, and was told there was no reason that MK visits to the mount could not resume. “If the security forces should decide that MKs may be permitted entry to the Temple Mount, the committee will convene and change its decision accordingly,” the committee’s announcement said.

It came out at the committee session that despite the ban, two Joint List MKs attempted to go up to the Temple Mount last week. The two, Masud Ganaim and Talab Abu Arar, were stopped by security guards who recognized them.

Joint List MK Ahmed Tibi said the committee’s decision is “embarrassing and contributes to the ongoing violation of MKs’ immunity and makes the committee and all MKs captive to the Israel Police.”

“The committee erred from the start when it inserted itself into this mess," said Tibi. "Our entry to the site and our prayers are not a matter for the Ethics Committee or Prime Minister Netanyahu or the police chief — it’s our natural, religious, personal and national right. It always has been and it always will be.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) called on Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to keep the ban in place. “The Jewish MKs are under a severe halakhic prohibition against going on the Temple Mount, while the Arab MKs are mostly non-religious and their entire aim is to stir things up, when the situation there is already very volatile,” he said. “The Temple Mount is not a political site," he added, "and it’s not a ‘Hyde Park’ for brawling and provocations.”