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Ben Gvir overruled: Temple Mount access on Ramadan will be similar to previous years

Netanyahu decides against severe restrictions

Thousands of Muslim worshipers attend the last Friday prayers of the month of Ramadan, on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, April 14, 2023 (Photo: Jamal Awad/Flash90).

Muslim worshippers will have the same access to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem during the holy month of Ramadan as they did in previous years, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Tuesday evening.

Netanyahu decided against the recommendations of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and the Israel Police, who urged the State of Israel to severely restrict Temple Mount access to Muslims from the West Bank and to limit the number of Arab-Israeli Muslims.

In his official announcement, Netanyahu wrote: “During the first week of Ramadan, the entry of worshippers to the Temple Mount will be permitted, similar to the numbers in previous years. A weekly assessment of the security and safety aspects will be held; a decision will be made accordingly.”

“Israel strongly safeguards freedom of worship for all faiths, at all sites in Israel, especially the Temple Mount,” he added. “Ramadan is sacred to Muslims; its sanctity will be upheld this year, as it is every year.”

The final decision was taken after a high-level discussion attended by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Foreign Minister Israel Katz, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, and Minister Eisenkot, as well as the IDF chief, the chief of police, the director of the Shin Bet domestic intelligence and other security chiefs.

Ben Gvir’s presence at the meeting was notable as only a few days earlier, Israeli media reported that the War Cabinet had revoked his authority to limit entry to the Temple Mount during Ramadan to prevent an escalation of tensions.

Ben Gvir was angered by the decision.

“The decision to allow an ascent to the Temple Mount in Ramadan, similar to previous years, contrary to the position of the police and my position, shows that Prime Minister Netanyahu and the small cabinet think that nothing happened on 7/10,” he wrote on 𝕏.

“This decision endangers the citizens of Israel and may allow a picture of victory for Hamas,” he added.

On the other side of the political spectrum, Israeli Knesset Member Mansour Abbas, the leader of the Islamist United Arab List party, praised the decision.

“I congratulate the prime minister on the responsible decision to allow freedom of worship for Muslim worshippers at Al Aqsa Mosque. I call on the Arab public to exercise their right to pray and observe the commandments during the holy month while maintaining the law and public order.”

The final decision not to limit access to the Temple Mount and the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem followed a series of weeks-long discussions within Israeli security circles, with Ben Gvir and the police on one side and Gallant, the IDF and the Shin Bet on the other side.

The defense minister recently warned that Israel is seeing a “growing preoccupation of Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas to turn the month of Ramadan into the second phase of October 7 and set fire to the area.”

He, therefore, urged maximum restraint and de-escalation, apparently managing to convince the prime minister of his position.

Senior analysts at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) hailed Israel's decision and offered their insights.

“Israel has put the world on notice that Hamas, its Iranian paymaster, and their Lebanese terrorist ally Hezbollah are trying to reignite tensions over Ramadan," wrote FDD CEO Mark Dubowitz.

"All eyes will be on the Temple Mount and al-Aqsa, and Israel deserves credit for championing religious freedom despite the clear risk. Israeli authorities should be spending the remaining days honing their surveillance and intelligence capabilities to enable the identification and interdiction of Temple Mount troublemakers before they reach the site — or after they disperse and leave.”

FDD Senior Advisor Richard Goldberg wrote: "On one side is Iran and Hamas plotting a second October 7 and blocking a Ramadan ceasefire. On the other side is Israel trying to defuse tensions and respecting Muslim prayer at al-Aqsa. The world is on notice concerning who is behind any violence that unfolds.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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