The United Nations Security Council will convene an emergency session to discuss National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s visit to the Temple Mount hotspot in Jerusalem, which drew a flood of international condemnation, it said on Tuesday. a source.
No date has been set for the Security Council meeting – which has been officially requested by the United Arab Emirates and China on behalf of the Palestinian and Jordanian UN missions – but it could take place as early as Thursday, it said. a senior panel diplomat. The Times of Israel.
Ben Gvir, leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, visited the compound on Tuesday morning, decrying alleged “racism” against Jews at the site and dismissing warnings of a major backlash. The visit sparked concerns across the Muslim world that the Israeli government would change the status quo banning Jewish prayer at the shrine – considered the holiest site in Judaism and the third-holiest place for Muslims, which call the Al Aqsa Mosque or the Noble Sanctuary – despite repeated wishes that the regulations will remain in place.
Ben Gvir has long been an advocate for formally changing the status quo of the Temple Mount, in which Muslims are allowed to pray and enter with few restrictions, while Jews can only visit during limited time slots via a single door and walk on a pre-determined route, closely accompanied by police.
Palestinians and most of the international community vehemently reject any change to the current situation, although most Palestinians also oppose any Jewish-Israeli presence at the site, including police to maintain security.
The Tuesday visit took place on 10 Tevet, a Jewish fast day mourning the events that led to the destruction of the Temple that once stood there.
Many Palestinians reject the idea that the site is sacred to Jews, having accused Israel and Zionists for around a century of plotting to destroy the mosque and replace it with a Jewish temple – a decision that is not supported by the mainstream Israeli society.
The Security Council meeting on the visit is unlikely to result in concrete action or even formal condemnation, but will still serve to underscore significant international disapproval of Ben Gvir’s visit.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office maintained that Ben Gvir did not violate the status quo with the visit.
Israel remains committed to “strictly maintaining the status quo” on the site, the prime minister said in a statement. “The assertion that a change has been made to the status quo is baseless.”
Ben Gvir, however, acknowledged in a Tuesday night Channel 12 interview that Jews have sometimes been allowed to pray quietly at the site at times in recent years under the watchful eye of police without taking action.
In contacts with allies abroad, the prime minister’s office and the foreign ministry pointed out that other ministers had visited the site in the past, including a former public security minister from the Likud party.
But none of them had a reputation like that of Ben Gvir, who draws inspiration from the late racist rabbi Meir Kahane and has been convicted in the past of inciting and supporting a Jewish terror group. He has also long called for changing the status quo at the site to allow Jewish prayer there, though he hesitated when asked on Tuesday night if he still maintained that stance – likely due to Netanyahu’s directives. , who fears an international backlash as he seeks to build on normalization deals with Arab countries struck during his last term.
As national security minister, Ben Gvir has responsibility for the police, which have been tasked by Israeli courts with establishing and enforcing policy on the Temple Mount.
In a video clip taken during his visit on Tuesday morning, Ben Gvir denounced what he called “racist discrimination” against Jewish worshipers banned from praying at the top of the site. With the Dome of the Rock in the background and waving his fingers at the camera, he said tours would continue.
“The Israeli government will not surrender to a murderous organization, an infamous terrorist organization,” Ben Gvir said in response to threats from Hamas and other terror groups, which had warned of repercussions if the tour continued.
Among the countries condemning the visit were the United States, the United Kingdom and France, as well as much of the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
Asked about the visit, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that “the United States strongly advocates…the preservation of the status quo with respect to Jerusalem’s holy sites.”
“Any unilateral action that jeopardizes the status quo is unacceptable,” she added.
US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides made similar, albeit off-the-cuff, remarks earlier Tuesday; US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States was “deeply concerned” by Ben Gvir’s decision, which has “the potential to escalate tensions and provoke violence”.
A senior official in US President Joe Biden’s administration told the Ynet news site that Ben Gvir was “trying to cause chaos”. The White House was told of the trip in advance and said the trip would be short and not violate the status quo, but Washington protested anyway, according to the site.
Ben Gvir has visited the Temple Mount several times in the past, but the administration official noted that his ministerial position now gives more weight to the decision.
“Why climb the Temple Mount? Just to get more views on Tiktok? the accused official.
Israel was also quick to placate other allies, who reacted similarly by warning Jerusalem of the potential region-wide backlash from such visits, even if they are short and do not violate the status quo, according to reports. of Channel 12.
Israel in turn responded that if the Palestinians choose to incite violence, it will hold Hamas or anyone else involved accountable.
Prior to the visit, Hamas warned Israel that it would serve as a “detonator”.
Although Ben Gvir visited the site anyway, the fact that he initially appeared to stray from the plans and did not announce the tour initially was seen by Hamas as evidence that his threats had worked, the officials said. group officials to the Arab media.
Palestinians regard the compound, which houses the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock shrine, as a national symbol and see such visits as provocative and a potential precursor to Israel changing reality at the site, although that Jews be allowed to visit in accordance with the status quo. Many ultra-Orthodox rabbis ban Jews from praying at the site, but there has been a growing movement in recent years from Jews supporting worship there.
The visit fueled fears of unrest as Palestinian terror groups threatened to act in response. On Tuesday evening, the Israeli military said fighters from Gaza attempted to launch a rocket into southern Israel, but the projectile failed and landed inside Hamas-controlled territory.
The Temple Mount has been the scene of frequent clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces, most recently in April last year.
Tensions in the contested compound have fueled the latest waves of violence. A visit by then-opposition leader Ariel Sharon in September 2000 was followed by major Palestinian riots and clashes that became the second Palestinian uprising. Clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian rioters seeking to keep Jews out of the site fueled an 11-day war with Hamas in 2021.
Netanyahu returned to office last week for his sixth term as prime minister, leading the most religious and right-wing government in the country’s history. Its goals include expanding settlements in the West Bank and legalizing outposts throughout the disputed territory.
Israel captured the Temple Mount and the Old City of Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War, nearly two decades after conquering Amman during the War of Independence in 1948. However, Israel allowed to the Jordanian Waqf to continue to maintain religious authority atop Mt.
Israel sees Jerusalem as its undivided capital, having annexed East Jerusalem in a move not recognized by most of the international community, while Palestinians seek East Jerusalem, including the Old City, as the capital of a potential future state. Competing claims to Jerusalem are at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.