National Union MKs tour east Jerusalem, call for more building
Rightist faction tours area around Temple Mount, manages to alarm police who prohibited entry to Jews into area and try to block parliamentary aides from joining Knesset members. Police: We won't allow Temple Mount to be drawn into disturbances
Four National Union Knesset members – Uri Ariel, Michael Ben-Ari, Arieh Eldad, and Yaakov Katz – toured the area around the Temple Mount on Wednesday in protest of the cancellation of the monthly march around the Temple Mount gates.
MK Katz told Ynet during the tour, "We are praying that Bibi (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) will have the strength to continue building."
The police blocked entry to Jews on the Temple Mount gates route, but the Knesset members exercised their immunity in order to pass through the special polite forces deployed in the area. However, the police kept them from getting close to the gates themselves.
Knesset members during the tour (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
The police also tried to block entry to the parliamentary aides accompanying the MKs, but after a telephone conversation between Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and Jerusalem Police Chief Aharon Franco, they were permitted entry.
It should be noted that the Knesset members asked for police authorization to hold the march, but were turned down.
Katz explained that the objective of the march is to emphasize Jerusalem's status as the Jewish capital, not a settlement, where every Jew has the right to travel freely.
"Our arrival here is in essence the fulfillment of Netanyahu's words when he said that Jerusalem is the capital, we will continue building in it, and it is not a settlement. We thank the police for protecting us, but hope that the day is near when we will no longer need close protection on every tour," said MK Katz.
MK Uri Ariel said that the reality in which Jews are not allowed to hold their customary Temple Mount gates march is intolerable. He claimed that the timing of the tour is unrelated to the prime minister's visit to Washington, and that it is not an attempt at provocation.
Police: We will maintain status quo
MK Michael Ben-Ari was particularly outraged by the police escort: "It is absurd that just before Passover, during which Jews conclude the reading of the haggadah with the words 'next year in the rebuilt Jerusalem', they are not allowed to come and tour one of their most holy sites. We are outraged by the police decision to block entry to the aides."
Right-wing activist Itamar Ben-Gvir addressed the police and said that their behavior is illegal. When he asked to see an official document prohibiting their entry, he did not receive one.
Jerusalem Police said that they were had reinforced deployment and special units throughout the area in preparation for the tour.
"In light of calls made by extremists on both sides with the intention of inciting the atmosphere in the city's east and the Temple Mount, the police are prepared and firmly and determinedly will not allow attempts made by either side to violate the status quo on the Temple Mount. Police and Border Guard forces will not allow any attempt to involve and drag the Temple Mount, as a place of religious worship, into disturbances," the police said.
The rightist Knesset members received surprising support from one of the shop-owners in the marketplace. "Israel is the first democratic state in the Middle East. But in a case like today when police special units block access to the shops because of a routine tour of a few Jews, it is very similar to the dictatorships around Israel," said Haj Fathi.
Fathi said he has no problem with the MKs' visit and does not understand why Jews and Arabs are not allowed to live normal, sane lives in Jerusalem.