May 19, 2014
Likud, Labor lawmakers behind controversial bill; regulations currently permit only Muslim prayer in compound
Knesset members from the Likud and the Labor party were set to push forward a new bill that would allow Jews to pray at the Temple Mount, a practice currently forbidden.
The Temple Mount compound, which holds the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, is considered the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest site to Jews as the site of the two ancient Jewish temples.
By law, under arrangements Israel instituted after capturing the area in 1967, Jews are not allowed to pray at the site.
MKs Miri Regev (Likud) and Hilik Bar (Labor) were expected to present the controversial bill for Knesset discussion, Ynet reported, but it is unclear when they will do so.
“There is no reason that Jews should not be allowed to pray in the holiest site in the world,” Regev said, adding that she would fight for goal.
“I firmly believe that each event of Muslim unrest on the Mount should lead to its closure to Arabs. The prime minister is not the only decider on the issue, and if the proposal does not pass I’ll turn to the High Court of Justice in a public petition until Jews are allowed to pray with tallit and tefillin on the Temple Mount,” Ynet quoted Regev as saying.
Given that Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount remains a contentious issue, one which often leads to violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was expected to nix the proposal.
Bar said the bill would lead to “Jews and Arabs living side by side.”
“I insisted the Waqf’s authority would not be harmed, but the Muslims need to understand that we also have a right to pray there,” he said.
“I see in these holy sites the cradle of our existence, and if someone on the left has complaints against Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount – they will have a hard time claiming that other ethnicities suffer discrimination,” he added.
In a bid to soften tensions, the bill is set to emphasize that “no demonstration of protest or incitement that disturbs the peace will be tolerated” and that violators will be fined, according to Ynet.
In April, during the Jewish holiday of Passover, riots broke out on the Temple Mount compound as Palestinians protested a visit to the holy site by Jewish pilgrims and tourists.
Dozens of Palestinian protesters and an Israeli policeman were wounded during clashes, which resulted in the closure of the site to non-Muslims the following day.
Following the incidents, the Religious Affairs Ministry said it was crafting new rules that would allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount.
“We have drafted regulations that will regulate prayer on the mount,” said Deputy Minister Eli Ben Dahan, of the nationalist Jewish Home party. “I expect the prime minister and the government of Israel to adopt and validate these regulations and allow all Jews who desire so to go up to the Temple Mount and pray there,” he told a conference of Liba, an organization that encourages Jews to visit the Temple Mount, via video address in April.
The regulations would reverse longstanding orders banning Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. The rules have garnered backlash over the last several months amid a renewed interest in visiting the site by Jewish groups, which has served to stoke heated tensions at the site.