Israel’s new far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has paid a fleeting visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem on Tuesday. Jews and Palestinians both strongly condemned the visit.
The Palestinian organization Hamas, which governs Gaza and opposes peaceful cooperation with Israel, has issued the following statement in response to Ben- Gvir’s visit, “A continuation of this behaviour would lead all parties closer to a violent collision.”
Ben-Gvir used the Jewish term for the location to say on Twitter, “The Temple Mount is open to anyone.” He could be seen on video footage going around the perimeter while being accompanied by another Orthodox Jew and protected by a strong security force.
Ben-Gvir said that the visit accorded with a so-called status-quo agreement that has dated back decades and has permitted the non-Muslims to come. However, he stayed away from the mosque. Gvir is a senior member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s nationalist and religious cabinet.
Although there were no problems during the visit, it runs the danger of escalating the already-heightened tensions with Palestinians caused by a recent spike in violence in the occupied West Bank.
The Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has urged his people to “confront the raids into Al Aqsa mosque.” He laid the charge that Ben-Gvir had staged the outing in an effort to transform the shrine into a Jewish temple.
Ben-Gvir had formerly supported lifting a restriction on Jewish prayer at the Al Aqsa Mosque but since allying with Netanyahu his position has become more ambivalent.
The Al Aqsa complex which is a Noble Sanctuary for Muslims is the third holiest place in Islam. It is also the holiest place in Judaism and contains the remains of two former temples.