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Netanyahu temporarily lifts MK visitation ban to Al-Aqsa compound

July 2, 2017 5:07 P.M. (Updated: July 2, 2017 8:23 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled on Sunday to temporarily lift a ban preventing Israeli parliamentarians from accessing the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli media reported.

Following a legal petition by far-right Knesset member (MK) Yehuda Glick, one of the leading advocates for Jewish visitation to the Al-Aqsa compound -- known to Jews as the Temple Mount, where it is believed the First and Second Temples stood -- Netanyahu decided to allow MKs to access the site during a five-day period starting on July 23, more than a year and a half after the visitation ban was implemented.

The Al-Aqsa compound, which sits just above the Western Wall plaza, houses both the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The third holiest site in Islam, it is also venerated as Judaism's most holy place.

Netanyahu initially issued the MK visitation ban in the fall of 2015, seeking to ease tensions at the compound amid a deadly wave of political unrest that erupted across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel.

Glick 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 regarding the holy site.

While Jewish visitation is permitted to the compound, non-Muslim worship is prohibited according to an agreement signed between Israel and the Jordanian government after Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967. Despite this agreement, Israeli authorities regularly allow Jewish visitors to enter the site and carry out religious worship -- often under armed guard.

“The decision to open the Temple Mount is fair and just. It’s a shame that we needed to petition the Supreme Court for this decision to be made,” The Times of Israel quoted Glick as saying in reaction to the temporary lift of the ban, which affects both Israeli MKs and Palestinian lawmakers with Israeli citizenship.

Employees of the Islamic Endowment (Waqf) -- which administers the compound -- often face detention by Israeli forces while attempting to protect the site from provocative Israeli right-wing incursions onto the site and renovations in the compound attempted by Israel Antiquity Authorities (IAA).

Many Palestinians and rights groups fear that right-wing groups calling for the destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque to make way for a third Jewish temple are gaining growing influence in Netanyahu’s right-wing government.
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