Knesset members Yehuda Glick (Likud) and Shuli Mualem-Rafaeli (Bayit Yehudi) visited the Temple Mount on Tuesday morning as part of a new pilot program allowing MKs to hold visits to the holy site coordinated with the police.
Glick was visiting the site for the first time since he was sworn in as a Knesset member in 2016.
In October 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu barred members of Knesset from entering the compound in an attempt to calm escalating tensions amid a wave of terror attacks that had started the previous month. Jewish MKs protested the decision to forbid them from visiting the site—and the ban was extended to all MKs.
The MKs were allowed to return to the Temple Mount Tuesday as part of a pilot program in which the Knesset's security officer approved their requests to visit the holy site after coordinating their visit with police.
While the police determined a year ago there was no security impediment to MKs visiting the Temple Mount, the approval of their visit has been repeatedly postponed by political officials.
"I would like to hope opening the mountain to MK visits will not be a one-time event, but rather a proper re-opening to the holiest place in the world," Glick said.
"I prayed for me and my family and my children and my wife, and I prayed for world peace," added Glick, who is currently nursing his wife after she had a stroke a few months. "I prayed that God would give our prime minister strength to do his job, that he would be exonerated of all the crimes he is suspected of and would continue to unite the entire nation.
"I asked for peace in Syria, in Iran, in Afghanistan, in Yemen, that nation shall not lift up sword against nation."
Members of Knesset from the Joint List announced that they are boycotting the pilot.
"Arab MKs will enter (the Temple Mount) whenever they want, not whenever Netanyahu gives the OK," said MK Ahmad Tibi.
Tibi also denounced Glick and Mualem-Rafaeli as "right-wing extremists" who "broke into al-Aqsa Mosque with the help of the Israeli government and its police."
"They want to allow them to pray in the mosque’s courtyard," Tibi fumed.
Several Peace Now left-wing activists demonstrated at the entrance to the Temple Mount against the MKs' visit. They carried a sign with the caption: "You crazy people, get off the mount, your pilot endangers us all."
In recent months, Glick has been waging a struggle to allow MKs to visit the Temple Mount. He rejected the claim he was doing this as provocation.
"I have a very strange worldview that whoever is responsible for terror attacks is the person who commits them, and whoever incites to murder is guilty," Glick said. "I am convinced that whoever visits to the Temple Mount with good in his heart adds peace to the world, and whoever promotes incitement and hatred is the culprit."
Glick is a well-known outspoken activist for Jewish prayer rights at the holy site, making him a bête noire to many Arabs and left-wing Israelis. He was shot and nearly killed in 2014 by a Palestinian terrorist following a lecture at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem entitled "Israel Returns to the Temple Mount." The assailant apologized before shooting him, but said he has to do it because Glick is an "enemy of Al-Aqsa."
Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher at Ir Amim, an organization promoting "stability, equality and an agreed political future in Jerusalem," said that "the return of Knesset members to the Temple Mount means that representatives of the Israeli government, members of the coalition and the prime minister's party, come to the holy site to challenge the status quo and the agreements signed by the government of Israel with the Jordanian government.
"For the Palestinian, Jordanian and Muslim public, this is another proof the State of Israel indeed supports organizations that aspire to take control of the Temple Mount and to build the Third Temple where the Dome of the Rock now stands.
"If the prime minister chooses not to intervene, he will convey to the Jordanians and the east Jerusalem community that there is no one to prevent Knesset members from acting to realize those goals, and that if they want to defend the holy site they must do so on their own."