Itamar Ben-Gvir, formulaically identified in the Western media as “far right,” is Israel’s new National Security Adviser. He is known for wanting to assert more forcefully the Jewish claim to the Temple Mount, by having more Jews visit the site routinely, and by ceasing to prohibit Jewish visitors from praying, both openly and silently. On January 2, Ben-Gvir visited the Mount. He did not stay long. He did not approach Al-Aqsa Mosque, but stuck to walking along the perimeter of the 35-acre Al-Aqsa Compound, which is a different thing. He did not say prayers, openly or silently. He did not “storm” Al-Aqsa; he didn’t come close to the mosque; he simply walked quietly around the edges of the Compound. But that was enough to cause fury among the Palestinians, and indignation among other Arabs. And his visit also angered the Bidenites, who apparently think they have a right to dictate to Israel which Jews should be allowed to visit the holiest site in Judaism – and Itamar Ben-Gvir doesn’t make their cut. More on his 13-minute visit and its predictable aftermath can be found here: “PA accuses Israel of trying to build a new temple on Temple Mount, Jerusalem Post, January 3, 2023:
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh accused Israel of trying to turn the Al Aqsa Mosque on Temple Mount into the site of a new Jewish temple following Itamar Ben-Gvir’s visit to the Jerusalem holy site on Tuesday morning.
How, in what way, does Ben-Gvir’s visit form part of a sinister Israeli plot “to turn the Al-Aqsa Mosque into the site of a Jewish temple”? Ben-Gvir neither entered, nor even got near to, the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Arabs are deliberately trying to conflate the Al-Aqsa Mosque building with the 35-acre Al-Aqsa Compound. Ben-Gvir has never said a word about razing the Al-Aqsa Mosque and building a Jewish temple on that very site. His only desire is to lift some of the cruel restrictions on Jewish visitors, by allowing them more than four hours a day during which they may visit, and even more important, by allowing those visitors, when once they are on the Mount, to say the prayers that currently they are prohibited from doing. How does that amount to a plan to raze Al-Aqsa Mosque and replace it, on the same site, with a Jewish temple?
Addressing his cabinet, Shtayyeh also called on Palestinians to “confront the raids into al-Aqsa Mosque” after Ben-Gvir toured the periphery of the mosque compound. However, Ben-Gvir did not approach the mosque itself.
Palestinian Prime Minister Shtayyeh deliberately uses the vocabulary of violence when describing Ben-Gvir’s latest visit to the Temple Mount. He talks about the “raids into Al-Aqsa mosque.” There were no “raids” by Ben-Gvir or any other Israeli or Jewish visitor. Ben-Gvir simply walked, in solemn and determined fashion, around the perimeter of the Compound. Ben-Gvir did not get close to Al-Aqsa, much less push his way “into” it, as Shtayyeh claims, and there was no “raid” by Ben-Gvir on anything on the Temple Mount. The visit was exactly like the visit Ben-Gvir had made in November, before he became part of the government, and like the visits routinely made by Jewish visitors. Ben-Gvir stayed on the Mount for less than 13 minutes. That’s hardly a visit to alarm anybody, but the Palestinians were determined to whip up into a fury their own people, and other Arabs, and the rest of the world. Can a UN General Assembly Resolution denouncing Ben-Gvir’s visit to the holiest site in Judaism be far behind? The truth hardly matters when your aim is to demonize the Israelis, paint them as oppressors ready to “raze Al-Aqsa,” and by means of such preposterous claims further whip up Palestinians to a frenzied state of quite unnecessary alarm.
Ben-Gvir had said on Sunday [January 1] that he would visit the contentious site in the near future although at the time he did not confirm when this would take place.
Following his visit, it was confirmed that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had spoken with Ben-Gvir on Monday to discuss his intention to visit the site. The Likud confirmed that, following consultations with security establishment officials, Netanyahu did not object to Ben-Gvir’s pilgrimage.
This is Ben-Gvir’s first trip to the Temple Mount since the November election.
The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Jordan also issued condemnations against the National Security Minister, with Saudi Arabia calling his visit “provocative.”
Only those of bad faith themselves could call Ben-Gvir’s visit “provocative.” He did nothing to violate the “status quo.” He simply showed up for a 13-minute visit, no different from the one he made in November, during the elections, and it is this briefest of visits that infuriated the Palestinians and their echo chamber among the other Arabs.
“The foreign ministry expresses the condemnation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of the provocative action by an Israeli official who stormed the al-Aqsa mosque compound,” the Saudi statement read, refraining from mentioning Ben-Gvir by name.
Note that the Saudi statement repeats the sinister verb “stormed.” Soldiers “storm” an enemy’s site in war. Ben-Gvir did not “storm.” Suit-and-tied, he simply walked around the edge of the compound.
The UAE also published a statement on Tuesday afternoon condemning Ben-Gvir’s visit to the holy site.
“The UAE today strongly condemned the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard by an Israeli minister under the protection of Israeli forces,” read the statement published in full on their Foreign Affairs Ministry website.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) reiterated its firm position on the need to provide full protection for Al-Aqsa Mosque and halt serious and provocative violations taking place there.
An act does not become “provocative” because others chose to treat it as such. How many sensible people feel that Itamar Ben-Gvir engaged in a “provocative” act by merely walking around the perimeter of the Temple Mount, as he had every right to do so, and remained on the Mount for less than 13 minutes? These thin-skinned Saudi Arabs, describing Ben-Gvir as “having stormed the Al-Aqsa mosque compound” when he merely walked, quietly, around the compound’s perimeter, are the true provocateurs, trying to stir up trouble.
“Furthermore,” they wrote, “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.”
Ben-Gvir’s 13 minutes of fame, or rather, if we are to side with the Arabs, of infamy – that is, his brief trip, pedibus calcantibus, along the perimeter of the Temple Mount, did not impinge in the slightest on Jordan’s role in supporting the Islamic Waqf that is in charge of administering the Muslim holy sites on the Temple Mount. Like Saudi Arabia, the Emirates are expressing a baseless alarm. The Islamic Waqf’s responsibilities on the Temple Mount remain intact.
The UAE called upon Israeli authorities to assume responsibility for reducing escalation and instability in the region, and stressed “the need to support all regional and international efforts to advance the Middle East Peace Process, end illegal practices that threaten the two-state solution, and establish an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
This is the same boilerplate that we have heard thousands of times, about the need for a “two-state solution” which would include a Palestinian state “on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.” It’s not going to happen. Israel will never return to the 1949 armistice lines (which is what the phrase “the 1967 borders” really means), which left it with a nine-mile-wide waist from Qalqilya to the sea; it intends to hold onto all territories it deems indispensable for its defense, which is exactly what UN Resolution 242 called for. See the enlightened gloss on Resolution 242’s meaning by its main author, British Ambassador to the UN Lord Caradon, who properly dismissed the 1949 armistice line as “a rotten line.”
Jordan, who is responsible for controlling and managing the al-Aqsa Mosque compound, issued a strong condemnation against Ben-Gvir, saying: “Jordan condemns in the severest of terms the storming of the Aqsa mosque and violating its sanctity.”
There it is again, this time from Jordan: “storming.” “The storming of the Aqsa Mosque.” There was no attempt get near, much less to “storm,” the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Yet all of these Arab accounts have the Israelis “storming” the Mosque, and no one in the mainstream media has this absurd misdescription.
“The Temple Mount is the most important place for the Jewish people,” Ben-Gvir said in a statement following his visit. “We [will] maintain freedom of movement for Muslims and Christians,” Ben-Gvir stressed, adding that “Jews will climb the mountain.”
Nota bene to the hysterics who accuse Ben-Gvir of wanting to raze the Al-Aqsa Mosque: he pledged just after his visit to “maintain freedom of movement for Muslims and Christians.”
US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides spoke to Walla News following Ben Gvir’s visit, saying that the White House made it clear to the Israeli government that it opposes any step that could damage the status quo in the holy places in Jerusalem.
“Let it be clear – we are interested in preserving the status quo and any action that prevents this is unacceptable. We said this clearly to the Israeli government,” he said.
So “let it be clear” by all means: it is the official position of the Bidenites that the “status quo” on the Temple Mount must be preserved at all costs.
And “any action that prevents this” (preserving the status quo) is “unacceptable.” That means the world’s Jews must continue to be prevented from saying prayers, openly or silently, at the holiest site in Judaism – the Temple Mount. Is that what the Bidenites want to maintain? To prevent Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount? How can that possibly be justified?
The French Embassy to Israel also issued a condemnation via Twitter, writing in French and Hebrew that “France recalls its absolute attachment to the preservation of the status quo on the Holy Places of Jerusalem.”
“Any gesture aimed at questioning it carries a risk of escalation and must be avoided.”
The French have no intention of changing their anti-Israel policy – just look at their UN votes, so consistently anti-Israel even long after other European countries, such as Germany and Italy, have switched into the pro-Israel camp – and they, too, like the Bidenites, think they have a right to tell Israel what it can and cannot do on the Temple Mount. The geopolitical and religious presumption is extraordinary.
What is not extraordinary, but perfectly ordinary and understandable, is the desire of most Israelis, and not just the “far-right” Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, to be allowed to pray on the Temple Mount. And that desire is shared by most Jews worldwide. And if the question were presented correctly, as “Why should Jews be forbidden from praying at the holiest site in Judaism?,” most people, at least in in the Western world, would agree that Jews ought to be able to do so, especially given that the Muslims can pray all day and night, seven days a week, on the Temple Mount, and no one thinks of limiting them. What the Bidenites need to do is to stop mindlessly mouthing the weasel words “keep the status quo” and ask instead these questions: What is fair? What is just? What makes perfect sense? It will be hard for the Bidenites to think in those terms; in fact, it is hard enough for them to think in any terms. So Israel, and its American supporters, have simply got to keep asking the unanswerable: “Why should Jews be forbidden from praying on the Temple Mount?” and not be satisfied with whatever ghastly mumbo-jumbo Biden, Blinken, and Sullivan concoct as an answer.