In an interview with the Hebrew news site Zman Yisrael that was published on Wednesday, Knesset member (MK) Amit Halevi suggested a plan to divide the Temple Mount equally between Jews and Muslims. According to his plan, the Muslims will receive the southern area including Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Jews will receive the central and northern area of the mountain, including the Dome of the Rock. In order to implement this plan, he suggested removing Jordan from its custodianship of the holy site.
“Let’s start with the facts,” Likud MK Halevi said to Zman Yisrael. “The area of the Temple Mount is 144 dunams (37 acres). A small part of it is Al-Aqsa Mosque, at the southern end of the mountain. The Muslims expanded the mosque beyond recognition starting in the year 2000, when they annexed Solomon’s stables, excavating and removing huge amounts of dirt that included precious archaeological findings and building another large mosque in the space.”
“On the other side of the Temple Mount stands the Dome of the Rock structure with the Foundation Stone in the center. That is where the First and Second Temples stood. This is most of the area of the mountain, which is the holiest place for the Jewish people.”
“Muslims today call the entire Temple Mount ‘Haram al-Sharif’,” Halevi said. “This is entirely an evil lie. It’s a plot; the Al-Aqsa plot. Because of this plot, we cannot enter the mountain, a place that actually belongs to us. The Temple Mount became Judenrein.”
“At the Camp David conference in 2000, Ehud Barak proposed to build a synagogue in a subterranean area, and this was the signal for the great assault of the Muslims on Shlomo’s Stables, to turn it into a huge mosque. The Jews should not be under the mountain. They should be on top of the mountain. We must not allow the Al-Aqsa plot. What did the Muslims do? Turn the entire Temple Mount into Muslim territory.”
Halevi suggested that the Muslims continue to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque, even though he maintains that they have transformed the mosque the place into a center of radicalism and incitement led by Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement. “And it was precisely on the Jews that the government imposed restrictions.
“Despite these actions by the Muslims, the Israeli government limits the Jews on the Temple Mount,” Halevi said. “If they pray there, it does not transform the entire Temple Mount into a holy place exclusively for Muslims. It never was and it never will be.”
“We will take the northern end and pray there,” said Halevi, “The entire mountain is sacred to us, and the Dome of the Rock is the place on which the Temple stood. This should be our guideline. Israel should take the lead. It will be a historical, religious, and national statement. If this does not happen then we are not actually the owners of the site. We are klutzes. What are we even doing there at all?”
Halevi is sure to ascend to the Temple Mount several times a year. Most recently, he was at the site on Jerusalem Day when he visited along with two other Likud MKs. While religious freedom at the site is mandated by Israeli law, his visit was heavily criticized by foreign governments including the US.
Halevi was unperturbed by the criticism.
“These are simple things,” he said. “This is the place of the First Temple and the place of the Second Temple built by the Jews returning from Babylonia. No one needs to examine the stones to know that it is ours, and until we say so, we are confirming the Muslim plot about Haram al-Sharif.”
“We are not breaking into anything. King David bought the land from the Jebusites. Arabs play soccer in the compound and hold picnics. We need to put an end to this. There are mosques in the south of the mountain and we respect that. Pray there and give us our share.
“For Muslims, the Dome of the Rock is a historical monument, not a mosque. For us, it is the Holy of Holies. If the Muslims want to come and pray with us in front of the place where the Temple stood, they are welcome,” Halevi said, quoting the Book of Isaiah, “For my house shall be called a house of prayer to all nations”.
Halevi’s partition plan also seeks to change the access procedures for the Jews to the Temple Mount. Today, Jews and tourists are only permitted to enter through the Mughrabi Gate and only during the few hours when the gate is open during the day. Halevi demands that Jews be allowed to enter through all the other gates, just like Muslims.
“We need to normalize the situation and remove the restrictions imposed on us. We must be allowed to go to the Temple Mount without police supervision. Why did this happen in the first place? Because we didn’t create the right narrative; that the Temple Mount is ours.”
“One of the reasons why the Temple Mount is not considered a place that is under Israeli sovereignty is because of Jordan’s political status on the Mount,” Halevi said. “This is a scandal, and the Jordanian status should be removed.”
“Are we giving status to a foreign country on the Temple Mount,” Halevi said. “Why would we do this? It is a historical crime,” Halevi said. “Why not give them status in the Dizengoff Center [in Tel Aviv] as well? This is a terrible mistake. This status should be abolished. I know it’s an agreement between countries, but we have to deal with this. It needs to be changed even if it is a process that will take time.”
Halevi intends to continue going up to the Temple Mount. He considers this to be of utmost importance to the people of Israel and to Israeli society.
“God should be relevant to Israeli society,” Halevi said.” What do we have in the mountain? We have no possessions, but we have the Ark of the Covenant and the Tablets of the Covenant with the Ten Commandments. This is the essence of the Temple Mount. The relationship with God is of the utmost importance. This is the purpose of the Temple in the end.
“We need to bring back this system of concepts, not to be ashamed of it, not to fear any security incident. We need to start the process. To say to the Muslims – you have a mosque, but you will not take over the Temple Mount. The fact that you have a mosque does not paint the whole mountain in a Muslim color. And it won’t hold water anyway.”
“It is our Temple Mount,” Halevi said, quoting Uri Zvi Greenberg, considered one of modern Israel’s greatest poets.
“Whoever controls the Temple Mount, controls the land of Israel,” Halevi quoted. “Whoever controls the mountain, attacks our belonging to this country. Whoever controls the Mount, threatens the Jewish and cultural identity of the country. This nation has a message; that there is God.”
Tom Nisani, CEO of Beyadeun Temple Mount advocacy organization, responded to Halevi’s plan
“MK Halevi’s desire to create real and impactful change including the cessation of discrimination against Jews, and return of the site to the hearts and minds of the Jewish people, is something we have been demanding for years,” Nisani said. “We will continue to act to strengthen voices that bring about this shift in policy until it is adopted in full!”
The Palestinian Authority’s Higher Presidential Committee of Church Affairs said in a statement that the plan, which it described as “fascist aggression”, must be “stopped and confronted” as it would “drag the region into the furnace of a religious war”, placing the blame on the right-wing coalition led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“[The Temple Mount] is a pure right for Muslims exclusively, and we will not accept the presence of any other entity,” the statement read. “Just as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a pure right for Christians, and sharing it is a violation of sanctities. Defending Al-Aqsa is a national, Arab, Islamic and Christian duty.”