Ben Gvir slammed for first Temple Mount visit as minister

It was the controversial new Security Minister's first tour of the site since Israel's November election


Right-wing politician MK Itamar Ben Gvir seen after visiting the Temple Mount, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on March 31, 2022. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90 *** Local Caption *** איתמר בן גביר משטרה הר הבית ירושלים העיר העתיקה

Itamar Ben Gvir has been slammed after he defied warnings to make a controversial visit to Jerusalem's Temple Mount this morning.

The new government in Israel “will not give in to threats from Hamas”, National Security Minister Ben Gvir said as he visited the Temple Mount, surrounded by heavy security.

Following the trip, which lasted about 15 minutes and was his first to the holy site since taking office last week, Mr Ben Gvir said: “The Temple Mount is the most important place for the Jewish people. We maintain freedom of movement for Muslims and Christians, but Jews also go up to the site,”

The far-right minister, who oversees both policing and the prison system in Israel, added, “those who make threats must be dealt with by an iron fist.”

Mr Ben Gvir had agreed to put off the visit following a meeting on Monday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, based upon discussions with security officials.

Former prime minister Yair Lapid had warned against a visit to the site by Mr Ben Gvir, saying it would spark tensions in the city and that “people will die”.

Mr Lapid tweeted on Tuesday: “This is what happens when a weak prime minister is forced to entrust the most explosive place in the Middle East to the most irresponsible man in the Middle East.”

The visit was held after a security assessment meeting with Shin Bet head Ronen Bar, as well as Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, who determined there would be “no obstacle”.

Mr Ben Gvir’s office said in a statement: “Security officials who participated in the assessment of the situation believed that capitulating in the face of threats would be a reward for terror and legitimise actions against Israel.”

Shortly after the visit, Mr Ben Gvir tweeted: “The Israeli government of which I am a member will not surrender to a vile murdering organisation,

“The Temple Mount is open to everyone and if Hamas thinks that by threatening me it will deter me, let them understand that times have changed. There is a government in Jerusalem!”

Jordanian authorities, who have jurisdiction over the holy site, slammed the visit in “the severest of terms” and said “the storming of the Al-Asqa mosque” was a “violation of its sanctity”

The United States’ Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said the Joe Biden administration had made it clear to the new Israeli government it opposed any steps that could harm the status quo of the holy sites.

Mr Nides said: “To be very clear, we want to preserve status quo and actions that prevent that are unacceptable. We have been very clear in our conversations with the Israeli government on this issue.”

The Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry condemned the visit on Tuesday, as a “unprecedented provocation.”

Israel’s Labour MK Gilad Kariv said the visit “showed prioritisation of an extreme nationalistic worldview” over the safety of Israeli citizens.

The new Security Minister, who is head of Otzma Yehudit, one of the three far-right parties in Mr Netanyahu’s coalition government, has long been seen as a provocateur.

He made several trips to the Temple Mount as a member of the Knesset, most recently in September ahead of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

Otzma Yehudit MK Zvika Fogel, praised the minister’s visit on Tuesday, saying: “If Hamas opens fire on Israeli territory and we’ll respond as I think we should, then [Ben Gvir’s visit to the Temple Mount] would be worthwhile because this will be the last war, after which we can sit and raise doves.”

Last March, Mr Ben Gvir, who is the only Israeli minister ever convicted of terror crimes, said on the Temple Mount: “My visit here conveys a very simple message - I will not surrender, and I will not capitulate. Israel must not capitulate to terrorists who are trying to murder us all.”

As part of the coalition agreement reached with Mr Netanyahu before the government was sworn in, Mr Ben Gvir agreed to maintain the status quo at holy sites, including the Temple Mount.

The Temple Mount is the most sacred site in Judaism, and the third most holy site to Muslims, who refer to it as the Al-Asqa Mosque and believe it to be the place where the prophet Muhammad’s ascended to heaven.

A visit to the site in 2000 by Israeli right-wing politician Ariel Sharon sparked a violent Palestinian uprising, the Second Intifada.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive