MIsrael’s far-right figurehead and new National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, a member of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history, made a brief visit to the site of the Mosques in East Jerusalem on Tuesday’s holy day. It is at the center of Israeli-Palestinian tensions. During the visit, he was accompanied by Israeli security forces. The groundskeepers told Agence France-Presse that the drone was flying over the esplanade.
After his departure, the situation on the esplanade was calm and worshipers and visitors were able to enter without incident, an AFP journalist noted. The Esplanade of Mosques, the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest site in Judaism known as the “Temple Mount”, is located in the Old City of Jerusalem, in the Palestinian sector occupied and annexed by Israel. Under the historical status quo, non-Muslims can visit the site at certain times, but cannot pray there. However, in recent years, more and more Jews, often nationalists, have secretly prayed there, a gesture seen as “provocation” by the Palestinians and several Middle Eastern countries.
Itamar Ben Gvir, known for his anti-Palestinian diatribes, has announced his intention to go there and has warned that such a trip, a pet peeve of Hamas and Israel, the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, risks being a “prelude to escalation”. “The Israeli government, of which I am a member, will not bow to a vile and murderous organization,” Ben Gvir responded on Twitter. “If Hamas thinks that threats will deter me, let them understand that times have changed. »
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Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem called Ben Gvir’s displacement a “crime” and said, “Our Palestinian people will continue to defend their holy places and Al-Aqsa.” The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said it was an “unprecedented provocation” in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank in Ramallah.
Ben Gvir has previously visited the site as an MP, but this is his first since coming to government last week. He requests that Jews be allowed to enter and pray there, contrary to the position of the Israeli rabbis. “What will people say when they see a minister, an observant Jew, violating the position of the rabbinate,” Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef wrote in a letter to Itamar Ben Gvir.
Jordan condemned the “provocation” that foreshadowed “escalation” and summoned Israel’s ambassador to Amman, while the United Arab Emirates called for “an end to serious and provocative violations” in the area. Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest places, and Morocco, whose monarch chairs the Al-Quds Committee, condemned the visit.
The spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Iran, Israel’s sworn enemy, condemned “the violation of international rules and the insult to the values of the Muslims of the world.” Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah, said on Tuesday evening that Israel’s attack on the holy sites in Jerusalem “could detonate not only the situation in Palestine, but the whole region”.
Warning from the White House
The White House has warned about this ” any unilateral action that would jeopardize the status quo [autour des lieux saints à Jérusalem] would be unacceptable ». This was stated by the spokesperson of the US State Department ” deeply disturbed » This trip by Itamar Ben Gvir decided that the visit was highly probable ” it heightens tension and incites violence ».
The Deputy Spokesman of the UN Secretary General, Farhan Haq, in his turn emphasized that ” the importance of maintaining the status quo in sacred places »added that the UN Secretary General ” asks everyone to refrain from actions that could increase tensions in and around holy places ».
Berlin also made the call on Tuesday ” avoid actions that may increase tension ». ” The status quo » There is this esplanade in Jerusalem ” contributed to maintaining the fragile peace and security around the holy places for a long time », the German ambassador to Israel, Steffen Seibert, emphasizes on Twitter. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said so in his statement ” determined to maintain the status quo strictly ».
” Weak prime minister »
” This is what happens when a weak prime minister is forced to hand over responsibility in the most explosive place in the Middle East to the most irresponsible man in the Middle East. », opposition leader Yair Lapid commented on Twitter. In 2000, then right-wing opposition leader Ariel Sharon’s visit to the esplanade led to bloody clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police, marking the start of the second Intifada (2000-2005).
In May 2021, following violence in East Jerusalem and elsewhere, Hamas fired rockets into Israel, leading to an 11-day war with the Israeli military. Mr. Ben Gvir advocates the annexation of the West Bank by Israel and the resettlement of some Israeli Arabs, the descendants of Palestinians who remained on their land after the creation of Israel in 1948, to neighboring countries.