Previously published at Common Dreams
Israel’s far-right national security minister on Monday postponed a planned visit Islam’s third-holiest site amid warnings from the country’s opposition leader and Palestinian officials that such a trip would have deadly consequences.
The Times of Israel reports Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir temporarily put off a promised visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem—which sits on what Jews call the Temple Mount, Judaism’s most sacred site since biblical times—after speaking with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the right-wing Likud party.
The previous day, Ben-Gvir vowed to visit the contested site—which has been illegally occupied by Israel for over half a century—sometime this week, possibly as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday.
Yair Lapid, who stepped down as Israel’s prime minister last week and now leads the opposition, said Monday that “Itamar Ben-Gvir must not go up to Temple Mount. It is a deliberate provocation that will put lives in danger and cost lives.”
Lapid, of the liberal Yesh Atid party, added that Netanyahu must tell Ben-Gvir: “‘You are not going to the Temple Mount. People will die.'”
However, Ben-Gvir, who is also the leader of the Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party, declared that “no one will threaten us or tell us anything.”
“The Temple Mount is the holiest place for the people of Israel. We will not give up on any place in the land of Israel,” he continued.
“I’m against the racist policy at the Temple Mount, as well as the racism against Jews,” added Ben-Gvir—who was convicted in 2007 of incitement to racism and supporting a terrorist organization after he advocated the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
The Palestinian resistance group Hamas, which governs Gaza, warned Monday that it “won’t sit idly by” if Ben-Gvir visits Al-Aqsa.
Middle East Eye reports Hamas spokesperson Abd al-Latif al-Qanua called the planned visit “another example of the arrogance of the settler government and their future plans to damage and divide Al-Aqsa mosque.”
“The Palestinian resistance will not allow the neo-fascist occupation government to cross the red lines and encroach on our people and our sanctities,” he added.
Otzma Yehudit lawmaker Zvika Fogel—a former Israel Defense Forces brigadier general who in 2018 advocated killing Palestinian children—said that Ben-Gvir “will visit the Temple Mount whenever he sees fit.”
“We shouldn’t treat his visit as something that will lead to an escalation,” he added. “Why not see it as part of realizing our sovereignty?”
Under an Israeli-enforced policy, only Muslims are permitted to pray at Al-Aqsa. Jews and others are allowed to visit during assigned times and under strict restrictions.
Last year, attacks on the compound by Israeli occupation forces and settler-colonists wounded hundreds of Palestinians.
Ben-Gvir—who believes Isreal’s founders “didn’t finish the job” of ethnically cleansing all Arabs from Palestine—has visited Al-Aqsa several times while serving in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. He also led an October 2022 Jewish supremacist march through the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem, where he brandished a pistol and threatened to “mow down” Palestinians protesting the ethnic cleansing of their neighborhood.
King Abdullah of Jordan—whose Hashemite monarchy has had custodianship of Jerusalem’s holy sites for nearly 99 years—told CNN last week that “I always like to believe that, let’s look at the glass half full, but we have certain red lines. And if people want to push those red lines, then we will deal with that.”
“We have to be concerned about next intifada,” the king continued, referring to the mass Palestinian uprisings that occurred from 1987-93 and again from 2000-05. The second intifada erupted after then-Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon (Likud) visited Al-Aqsa.
“If that happens, that’s a complete breakdown of law and order and one that neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians will benefit from,” Abdullah added. “I think there is a lot of concern from all of us in the region, including those in Israel that are on our side on this issue, to make sure that doesn’t happen.”