Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s National Security Minister, ascended to the Temple Mount on Sunday, setting off a storm of criticism.
“I’m happy to go up to the Temple Mount, the most important place for the people of Israel,” the Otzma Yehudit Party head said in a statement. “It should be said that the police are doing a wonderful job here and once again prove who owns the [the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem. All the threats from Hamas will not help, we are the owners of Jerusalem and the whole Land of Israel,” he continued.
Rabbi Shimshon Elbaum noted the significance of Ben-Gvir’s visit, saying, “[It] gives meaning to the slogan ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands’ which recently turned 56 years old.”
Rabbi Elbaum was citing the statement made by IDF commander Motta Gur uttered upon capturing the holy site in 1967.
Outside of Israel, Ben-Gvir’s visit garnered harsh criticism. The US State Department released a statement saying it was “provocative”:
“We are also concerned by today’s provocative visit to the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif in Jerusalem and the accompanying inflammatory rhetoric,” the State Department said. “This holy space should not be used for political purposes, and we call on all parties to respect its sanctity.”
This response was relatively mild when compared to a State Department statement made after Ben-Gvir visited the site in January.
“The United States stands firmly… for the preservation of the status quo with respect to holy sites in Jerusalem,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a White House briefing. “Any unilateral action that jeopardizes the status quo is unacceptable.”
Jean-Pierre did not explain why a Jew visiting the Temple Mount jeopardized the status quo.
Jordan, which has supervisory status at the Temple Mount, stated that Ben-Gvir’s recent visit “breaches international law.” Jordan’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sinan Al-Majali said, “The visit breaches international law and the historical and legal status quo of Jerusalem and its holy sites,” adding that it “is a provocative step and a grave violation that leads to escalation,”
He demanded that Israel “immediately cease all violations against the Al-Aqsa Mosque and respect its sanctity.”
A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Ben-Gvir’s “incursion at an early hour, like thieves, into the Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyards will not change the reality and will not impose Israeli sovereignty over it.”
Hamas, the elected government in Gaza, published a declaration in response that called for an armed response from Arabs living in Israel.
“We will not leave Al-Aqsa, and the occupation will bear the responsibility for the barbaric invasion by its ministers and flocks of settlers. The barbaric infiltration by the Zionist National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, accompanied by extreme settlers, into the courtyards of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque this morning (Sunday); we are worried about the danger that faces the Al-Aqsa under this fascist Zionist government and the arrogance of its ministers’ from the extreme right,” the organization stated.
“Facing the astonishment by the aggression to our purest lands and our holiest mosques, we affirm that our nation has determination larger and older than the occupation, and our people will not surrender to this aggression, and we will not surrender. Leave Al-Aqsa alone.
“Since we see that the criminal occupation is responsible for this barbaric attack, we call on our people in occupied Jerusalem, the West Bank, and on the inside to strengthen the connection with Al-Aqsa to travel to it and to stand as an impenetrable fortress against attempts to defile and Judaize it,” it concluded.
In addition to over 1,200 Jews who ascended to Judaism’s holiest site on Thursday to commemorate the 1967 victory, five members of the Knesset ascended to the Temple Mount. Among them were Ariel Kallner, Amit Halevi, Dan Iluz (Likud), MK Yitzhak Wasserlauf, and Yitzchak Kroizer. During their visit, they sang “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem.