Challenging Netanyahu, Ben Gvir ascends Jerusalem flash level website

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JERUSALEM — Israel’s far-right nationwide safety minister, Itamar Ben Gvir, visited a delicate holy website in Jerusalem on Tuesday, regardless of reported objections by the prime minister and senior safety officers.

Israeli media mentioned that Benjamin Netanyahu and others warned {that a} provocative go to to what Jewish Israelis confer with because the Temple Mount within the coronary heart of the Previous Metropolis might worsen an already escalating battle with Palestinians and embitter relations with the broader Arab world.

Whereas there have been no quick demonstrations in Jerusalem, the transfer drew condemnations from nations throughout the area, together with ones with which Israel is hoping to construct new ties. Jordan summoned Israel’s ambassador in protest, and Netanyahu’s first journey to the United Arab Emirates since signing a normalization deal there in 2020 was delayed after Abu Dhabi referred to as for an finish to the “serious and provocative violations.”

Israel’s new far-right nationwide safety minister Itamar Ben Gvir briefly visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Jan. 3. (Video: Reuters)

On Tuesday morning, Ben Gvir mentioned that he wouldn’t “surrender” to threats by Hamas, the Islamist militant group that guidelines Gaza, over his deliberate go to to the contested website.

“The Temple Mount is open to everyone and if Hamas thinks that if it threatens me, it will deter me, let them understand that times have changed,” he tweeted, together with a photograph of himself flanked by safety officers.

A go to to the location by Ariel Sharon, then opposition chief, in 2000 with a military of safety guards set off the years of preventing of the second intifada. Extra lately, confrontations have been sparked by journeys made by right-wing Israeli lawmakers to the location, which is revered in Judaism. Palestinians see these strikes as a part of an effort to increase Israeli management over the location — which is also revered by Muslims, who name it the Noble Sanctuary.

In Could 2021, Ben Gvir’s help of settlers in an East Jerusalem neighborhood close to the doorway to the Temple Mount was among the many catalysts of an 11-day battle between Israel and Hamas.

Tensions elevated steadily all through 2022, which was the deadliest yr for Palestinians within the West Financial institution for the reason that finish of the second intifada in 2005. A spate of Palestinian assaults on Israelis within the spring had been met with near-nightly Israeli army raids focusing on assailants in addition to civilians, in keeping with human rights teams. On Tuesday, a 15-year-old Palestinian boy was killed by Israeli forces, already the third fatality within the West Financial institution this yr.

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Ben Gvir’s go to got here lower than every week after the inauguration of Israel’s new authorities, which is led by Netanyahu however anchored by a bloc of once-fringe far-right events whose members have vowed to annex the West Financial institution and extinguish any remaining prospects for a two-state answer, by which a Palestinian state would exist alongside Israel.

Ben Gvir, now main a brand new place as minister of nationwide safety chargeable for the police, has lengthy advocated a change to the established order on the Temple Mount, which for the reason that 1967 battle has been managed by the Jordanian non secular authority often known as the Waqf. It prohibits any non-Muslim prayer atop the location, and Israeli police require non-Muslim guests to retailer non secular gadgets, resembling prayer books, on the entrance.

For many years, because the prospect of a two-state answer pale and the location’s standing as an emblem of nationwide sovereignty has risen, Israeli and regional leaders have warned that the slightest change might ignite the area.

Ben Gvir’s go to might “lead to more tension and violence and an explosive situation,” Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh mentioned in an announcement. He referred to as on the U.S. administration “to assume its responsibilities and force Israel to stop its escalation and storming al-Aqsa Mosque before it is too late.”

His criticisms had been echoed by Israel’s neighbors; a few of them — together with the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Egypt — have signed peace treaties or normalization agreements with Israel.

Jordan condemned “in the severest terms the storming of the al-Aqsa Mosque and the violation of its sanctity,” and Egypt’s Overseas Ministry warned of “the negative repercussions of such measures on security and stability in the occupied territories and the region, and on the future of the peace process.”

Saudi Arabia, which Israel has been keen so as to add to the listing of Arab nations with which it has signed agreements, strongly condemned the “provocative practices” and likewise described it because the “storming” of al-Aqsa Mosque’s courtyard. The Overseas Ministry expressed remorse over Israeli actions “that undermine international peace efforts.”

The U.S. Embassy in Israel mentioned Ambassador Tom Nides “has been very clear in conversations with the Israeli government on the issue of preserving the status quo in Jerusalem’s holy sites. Actions that prevent that are unacceptable.”

Even Netanyahu has condemned visits to the location as provocative, together with in a 2020 speech by which he justified turning down a proposal by Ben Gvir to permit Jewish prayer there in return for his get together’s withdrawal from the elections.

“Jewish prayer at the Temple Mount, though it sounds like a reasonable thing, I know it would have ignited the Middle East,” he mentioned. “There’s a limit. There are things that I’m not willing to do to win an election.”

However this time round, Netanyahu’s return to energy after 18 months on the sidelines was made potential by Ben Gvir and his far-right companions. They’ve lately moved from the political margins into the mainstream, together with a associated grass-roots motion of Temple Mount activists.

Their members embrace many youths dwelling in Jewish settlements within the occupied West Financial institution who’ve defied an edict issued by mainstream Orthodox rabbis prohibiting Jews from ascending the mount for concern of inadvertently strolling on the interior sanctuary of the previous temple, the place solely the excessive priest was allowed to tread.

A decade in the past, solely a handful of Jews would ascend the Temple Mount and pray surreptitiously into their palms or cellphones. However lately, the numbers have grown to the a whole bunch, generally 1000’s throughout vacation durations, and at occasions the guests pray in open violation of the principles.

Miri Eisin, a former senior intelligence officer within the Israeli army, mentioned that with its unprecedented illustration within the Israeli authorities, the right-wing motion seems keen to plunge the area into violence as the value for finishing its mission of the “enforcement of the idea that their rights, as Jews, are stronger than any other consideration, including security issues.”

“Extremism brings about confrontations that immediately become violent,” she added. “And all confrontations start at the Temple Mount.”

Hazem Balousha in Ramallah and Sufian Taha in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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