JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Arab-Israeli lawmaker visited the Temple Mount, violating a directive issued by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Basel Ghattas of the Arab Joint List visited the holy site on Wednesday and said afterward that he saw Jews praying there who were not stopped by police standing nearby. Ghattas, who is Christian, alleged that this was a violation of the status quo.
He posted a video on Facebook of himself on the Temple Mount.
“Netanyahu and Israel cannot prevent us from visiting the mosque, and Israel continues to change the status quo and increase the occupation’s sovereignty over the site. Visiting Al-Aqsa is my basic and elementary right,” Ghattas told Ynet after the visit, adding that “this holy place will always remain Islamic and Arabic.”
هذا الصباح دخلت الى ساحات المسجد الاقصى رغم انف نتنياهو. اسرائيل لا تملك ام تمنعنا من دخول الاقصى وهي مستمرة في تغيير الوضع القائم وفرض سيادة الاحتلال، سانشر فيدوهات لاحقًا تثبت ذلك. הבוקר נכנסתי למתחם מסגד אל-אקצא. נתניהו וישראל לא יכולים למנוע מאיתנו להיכנס למסגד והיא ממשיכה בשינוי הסטטוס קוו ובהעצמת ריבונות הכיבוש הישראלי במקום, בעוד זמן קצר אפרסם קטעים שמוכחים זאת.
Posted by د. باسل غطاس דר באסל גטאס on Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Netanyahu responded to the visit, saying in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon: “The Temple Mount has been quiet for two weeks. We are making every effort to maintain this quiet, but it would seem that someone is disturbed by this. MK Ghattas went up to the Temple Mount, went to the Al-Aqsa mosque. I assure you he did not do it in order to pray, he did it solely for the purpose of provocation, only to inflame the situation.
“I will not let any Knesset member or minister ignite the Temple Mount, and I call on all members of the Knesset and public figures in general to act responsibly, especially at this time.”
On Tuesday, Netanyahu reprimanded Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who said in an interview that it was her dream to see an Israeli flag fly on the site.
The ban on Israeli lawmakers visiting the site was issued on Oct. 7, and clarified the following day to make it clear that it referred to all lawmakers, not just Jewish ones.
“The decision stems from the intention to cool the atmosphere around the Temple Mount,” the announcement said.
The recent wave of Palestinian violence against Israeli targets has come amid a backdrop of tensions at the Temple Mount over non-Muslim visits and what the Arab world claims is an attempt to “Judaize” the site, the location of the Jewish people’s two Temples. Netanyahu has said repeatedly that Israel will maintain the status quo on the Temple Mount, under which Jews are allowed to enter the site but are not allowed to pray. The site is administered by Jordan under the direction of the Muslim Waqf.