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MK petitions Israeli Supreme Court to lift ban on politicians' visits to Al-Aqsa

March 29, 2017 2:33 P.M. (Updated: March 29, 2017 11:25 P.M.)
Israelis tour Al-Aqsa compound on June 12, 2016 (MaanImages)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Ultraright Israeli lawmaker Yehuda Glick has petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to reverse a ban preventing members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, from visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, making good on his pledge to do so after he was sworn into the Knesset last May.

Prior to being instated, Glick, a prominent far-right “Temple Mount activist,” had commonly taken to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound with ultra-nationalist Israelis to perform rituals and prayers at the site, a practice Palestinians say is an attempt to challenge long-standing international agreements prohibiting Jewish worship at the holy site.

His petition targeted Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu, a fellow Likud party member, who initially issued the ban in the fall of 2015, seeking to ease tensions at the compound amid a wave of political unrest that erupted across the occupied Palestinian territory.

According to Israeli daily Haaretz, Netanyahu decided on Monday that the ban, which affects both Jewish and Palestinian MKS, would be gradually phased out in three months, if security conditions permitted.

Glick told Haaretz on Tuesday that he had no doubt Netanyahu’s remarks were meant to preempt his appeal, and said that he would have cancelled the petition had Netanyahu called him and offered to work on a solution together.

“We want to visit Temple Mount, and the police have said for nine months that there are no security considerations preventing this. Anyone visiting the Mount sees that quiet has returned to the place, and political and diplomatic reasons do not justify the continued ban. It is illogical that the whole world can go there, just not MKs.”

Glick argued in his petition that the reasons for the continuation of the ban were political, claiming that security officials had already concluded there is no danger in lawmakers visiting the area.

His petition asserted that the prohibition restricts lawmakers' freedom of worship and movement and violates immunity clauses in the Basic Law on the Knesset.

Despite Glick’s claims of a “quiet” return to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, provocative visits by right-wing Israelis have continued, resulting in severe restrictions on movement for Palestinians, as Palestinian political and religious leadership have continued to issue warnings of tensions at the site.

Most recently, Israeli police detained 10 Palestinian security guards at the compound on Monday, after guards prevented an Israeli archaeologist from trying to remove an old stone from an underground section below the al-Qibli mosque.

Al-Aqsa compound director Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani told Ma'an at the time that the guards had only done their job and had not committed any offense to justify their detentions, though Israeli police reportedly accused the guards of “attacking” them, according to Al Jazeera.

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Muhammad Hussein called the incident "unacceptable," telling Al Jazeera: "I believe the Israeli police are trying to impose a new reality and are trying to intimidate the Al-Aqsa guards and to stop them from carrying out their duty."
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