'Jews Should be Able to Pray on Temple Mount'
April 18, 2013 Thursday 8 Iyyar 5773
by Daniel K. Eisenbud
New Interior C’tee head Regev says she plans to tour holy site; Meretz MK warns initiative could sabotage peace process.
MK Miri Regev (Likud), appointed Wednesday to chair the Knesset Interior and Environmental Affairs Committees, generated heated controversy when she said she intended to tour the Temple Mount with Interior Committee members to further the possibility of legalizing Jewish prayer at the site.
“Jews can pray at the Temple Mount,” said Regev, who in her new role could play a pivotal part in changing longstanding legislation barring Jewish visitors from praying there.
In a statement to the press Wednesday, she added that she will not hesitate to address the highly controversial issue.
“I don’t understand why a Jew is not allowed to pray in the most sacred place for him – the Temple Mount,” she said. “I intend to soon tour there, with an emphasis on freedom of Jewish prayer.”
MK Michal Roisin (Meretz) swiftly condemned Regev’s comments in a statement Wednesday, warning that her words could sabotage the peace process and ignite a “third intifada.”
“This is a low attempt and a cynical use of religion for political purposes to sabotage the peace process,” said Roisin.
“The government operates on an internal contradiction – on the one hand, it claims to adhere to the outline of two states for two peoples; and on the other hand, initiatives like this one by MK Regev hinder the process of negotiating.”
Roisin warned that it was just such an initiative by former prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2000 that ignited the second intifada.
“MK Regev seems to be all too happy to launch a third intifada,” she continued. “It’s up to the prime minister to immediately stop such an initiative. The Temple Mount issue will only be resolved through a peace agreement that will recognize it as a sacred place for the three religions – and only then can we allow all three religions to respectfully pray there and carry out their beliefs with pluralism, equality and mutual respect.”
Still, MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) has repeatedly expressed great consternation that Jews, including members of Knesset, are prevented from going to the Temple Mount to pray.
Meanwhile, Regev, who was roundly criticized last May for calling migrants a “cancer,” also said she will ensure that political refugees continue to enjoy the protection they are afforded under international law, while illegal immigrants remain prosecuted.
“The committee will maintain the character of the national and democratic state, with concern for minorities and individuals,” she said. “Concern for minorities is, in my opinion, a Jewish national duty.”
Regev said that in the coming weeks she will also tour south Tel Aviv to study the illegal immigration problem.
Committee members responded to her promotion with praise and wished her success.
In a statement, MK Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism) said Regev will represent the people of Israel fairly and effectively.
“I’m sure the Interior Committee headed by MK Miri Regev would not be a rubber stamp for the government,” said Maklev.
“And [she] will focus on issues regarding improving the quality life for the citizens of Israel – even if sometimes she will have to act against the government.”
Indeed, Regev said she is going to implement her “social world view,” which seeks to “put the person at the center,” adding that such a focus will serve to strengthen local government.
MK David Azoulay (Shas) praised Regev’s ideology, saying “the role of the committee is to take care of the local governments and prevent any harm to local authorities.”
Regev also said she will work to continue to strengthen the Environmental Protection Ministry and address the issues of civil rights and natural resources.
MK Hamad Amer (Yisrael Beytenu) emphasized the importance of promoting the development plans for Druse communities, “because they have not been advanced in 40 years,” he said.
Regev said that she will cooperate fully with the government and the coalition, while maintaining “independence of thought.”
She was sworn in before Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Knesset House Committee chairman MK Tzachi Hanegbi, and will hold both positions throughout the term of the 19th Knesset without rotations.