ISRAELI MPs stoked tensions when they went to Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque yesterday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lifted a ban on visits by politicians.
Large numbers of heavily armed police and bodyguards accompanied Knesset members to Islam’s third-holiest site — administered by Jordan — just a month after protests forced the removal of new security measures.
It was the first visit by Knesset members to the site since October 2015, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu banned politicians from the mosque and the Temple Mount in response to a wave of stabbing attacks across the city and the wider occupied territories.
Palestine’s Ma’an News reported that the visitors were Yehuda Glick, an MP from Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party and a leading advocate of Jewish worship at the site, and Shuli Moalem-Refaeli of the settler extremist Jewish Home party. The Waqf (Islamic endowment) that runs the compound forbids non-Muslim worship at the mosque.
Al-Aqsa director Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani said Mr Netanyahu was “trying to show that he controls the mosque.”
Imposing facts on the ground “through the barrel of a gun and through occupation does not give them the right to control al-Aqsa,” Mr Kiswani insisted.
Waqf spokesman Firas al-Dibs said Mr Netanyahu’s action showed “extremist right-wing entities are in control of the Israeli occupation’s government.”
MPs of the Joint List coalition, who represent Israel’s 1.5 million Palestinian citizens, said they would stay away from the site in protest.
Joint List MP Ahmad Tibi said: “Arab MPs will enter whenever they want and not when Netanyahu wants. That is how it was in the past, and how it will be in the future.”
Israeli peace protesters gathered at the Moroccan Gate entrance with placards reading: “Lunatics, get off the mountain.”
Metez MP Laura Wharton said: “Even if he [Glick] is saying that he wants to go up and pray for his own personal reasons, as a public figure he has the responsibility for the repercussion of what he does.
“He is endangering the general public in what he’s doing.”
Meanwhile, United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres said during a visit to the Occupied Territories that continuing Israeli expansion of illegal settlements was “a major obstacle in relation to implementation of the two-state solution.
“There is no plan B to the two-state solution,” he warned.
But Mr Netanyahu insisted: “We have returned here for good,” adding: “There will be no more uprooting of settlements in the land of Israel.”