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Netanyahu government roundly condemned by world leaders after Ben Gvir Temple Mount visit

Prime minister insists his government will "strictly" maintain the status quo of the religious site

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir visits the Temple Mount, Jan. 3, 2023 (Photo: Minhelet Har Habayit)

An international chorus of condemnation has inundated the nascent Israeli government, not even a week old, following the visit to the Temple Mount by a far-right and highly polarizing lawmaker.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir visited the Temple Mount early Tuesday morning after a media storm of speculation as to when his ascent would take place. And while the visit has, so far, passed without incident, it has evoked condemnation from around the world. 

The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Jordan also condemned the visit.

The UAE characterized Ben Gvir’s visit as “the storming of Al Aqsa Mosque courtyard by an Israeli minister under the protection of Israeli forces.”

“Furthermore, the Ministry underscored the need to respect the custodial role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan over the holy sites and endowments in accordance with international law and the historical situation at hand, and not to compromise the authority of the Jerusalem Endowment Administration and Al Aqsa Mosque,” the ministry said a statement, calling on “Israeli authorities to assume responsibility for reducing escalation and instability in the region.” 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been invited to visit the UAE next week.

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry condemned “the provocative action by an Israeli official who stormed the Al Aqsa mosque compound,” according to a statement.

Netanyahu has expressed hope to bring the Saudis into the Abraham Accords during his present tenure.

Jordan, which forewarned of a negative response should Ben Gvir make his visit, called it “a provocative step that is condemned, and represents a flagrant and unacceptable violation of international law, and of the existing historical and legal status in Jerusalem and its sanctities.”

The U.S., French and European embassies in Israel also issued statements opposing Ben Gvir’s visit and urging calm. The U.S. Embassy in Israel issued a statement saying that: “Ambassador (Tom) Nides has been very clear in conversations with the Israeli government on the issue of preserving the status quo in Jerusalem’s holy sites. Actions that prevent that are unacceptable.”

Netanyahu issued a statement saying that his government is committed to "strictly maintaining the status quo, without changes, on the Temple Mount."

"We will not be dictated to by Hamas. Under the status quo, ministers have gone up to the Temple Mount in recent years, including Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan; therefore, the claim that a change has been made in the status quo is without foundation," the statement said.

The Hamas terror group has warned that if Ben Gvir visited the site, the terror group would respond with missiles or other violence.

Ben Gvir has long visited and advocated for expanding rights and access to the Temple Mount for people of religions other than Islam. This would require changing the status quo and is likely to set off a firestorm of controversy if not also violence.

However, even before he became a Knesset member last year, Ben Gvir's presence in a flashpoint Jerusalem neighborhood touched off a deadly response from Hamas, according to Gadi Hitman, an expert in Israeli-Arab affairs who spoke with ALL ISRAEL NEWS on Monday.

“The moment that Ben Gvir put his office in Sheik Jarrah, a few days later the situation in Jerusalem and elsewhere deteriorated quickly,” Hitman said, describing events that led to the 11-day war in 2021 between Israel and Gaza. “Israeli police officers entered the Temple Mount trying to evacuate some Muslim worshippers who tried to break the law, then Hamas fired missiles and then we got into the escalation in the mixed cities.”

Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS

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