Members of the Knesset’s Interior Committee visited the Temple Mount on Tuesday to demonstrate Israel’s firm control over eastern Jerusalem.
The trip was organized, said committee Chairman Yehoshua Matza of Likud, in response to a threat issued last week by Palestinian leaders to close the gates of the Temple Mount if Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert accompanied President Clinton on a planned visit to Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy sites in the Old City.
In the wake of the Palestinian threat, which was made in an effort to show that they considered Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state, Clinton changed his plans, saying he was too tired to make the visit.
“I decided with my committee to prove to them (the Palestinians) and to the world that those doors are in our hands,” Matza told Israel Radio.
“we came, we visited, we have seen whatever we wanted to see. There is one meaning – the full sovereignty of Israel” over all sections of Jerusalem, he said.
During the visit, committee members asked about piles of rocks that were supposedly used to throw at Jewish worshippers praying at the Western Wall, but there were no rocks to be seen. They also asked about illegal building on the mount, but there were no signs of constructions in progress.
The single disruption during the visit came from members of the Knesset committee itself, when Naomi Blumenthal of Likud and Ester Salmovitz of Yi’ud shouted down an Arab Israeli member of the committee who declared that eastern Jerusalem is the capital of a future Palestinian state.
The director of the Wakf Islamic Trust, which administers the Temple Mount, said the visit was unnecessary and called it a political provocation.
“They mention in the press they have no right to do that.”
Under the terms of the Palestinian self-rule accord that went into effect in May, discussions about the final status of Jerusalem are scheduled to take place in 1996.