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Majadle Justifies Destruction of Temple Remains

Arab minister: Islam rules on Temple Mount, not Israeli law; says 'I am a Muslim first, minister second'; MK Eldad: fire him and call the police
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 11/14/2007, 1:36 AM

The Jewish State's first Arab minister, Raleb Majadle, declared Wednesday that as far as Jerusalem's Temple Mount is concerned, Israeli sovereignty is nonexistent and Islam rules. The minister spoke in his official capacity as Minister of Science, Culture and Sport, from the Knesset podium, in response to a parliamentary question by MK Aryeh Eldad (NU/NRP).

MK Eldad's question referred to the unsupervised digging carried out by the Muslim authorities (the "Wakf") on the Temple Mount during the summer, by means of heavy machinery. "I received a series of photographs of digs on the Temple Mount near the Dome of the Rock," the parliamentary question read. "The police are present on the scene but there is no supervision by the Department of Antiquities regarding finds taken out of the digs, and there is a serious concern that they could be destroyed by the Wakf. What will be done in the short term to stop the destruction of the remains of the Temple?"

Speaking before the Knesset plenum, Majadle replied that the digs carried out on the Mount were coordinated, accompanied and supervised by the Antiquities Authority. "I have worked in recent months to create understandings between the Antiquities Authority and the Islamic Wakf because I believe that this is the only way," he said.

MK Eldad asked Majadle pointedly from the plenum floor: "Does Israeli law apply on the Temple Mount or does it not?"

Majadle answered: "In my opinion, certainly not." Eldad reminded him that in answering parliamentary questions he speaks for the entire government, but Majadle was unfazed: "I will say my opinion. Before I am a government minister I am first and foremost a person and a citizen and a Muslim. With all due respect for the law, the law was meant to respect the religion, the person and the citizen and protect him, and not the other way around, enslave him," he explained. "Therefore I say clearly: Al-Aksa, Al-Haram al-Sharif [as the Temple Mount is called by Muslims – ed.], cannot be under the authority of Israeli law."

Eldad interrupted him repeatedly, reminding him that he had sworn allegiance to the State of Israel
"I may be a minister for one, two or ten years but I was born a Muslim and a Muslim I shall die."
and its laws, but Majadle insisted: "I hereby inform you, esteemed MK Eldad, that I may be a minister for one, two or ten years but I was born a Muslim, and a Muslim I shall die.  I respect Israeli law...  but if there is a contradiction between the law and my deep faith as a Muslim, I announce that I will know what to choose."

Immediately after this exchange, MK Eldad wrote to the Prime Minister demanding that Majadle be fired from the government. In addition, he asked the Attorney General to open a police investigation against him, on suspicion of breach of trust.

Majadle's response was to repeat, this time in writing: "I respect Jewish law and recognize the sensitive situation in the Temple Mount and act accordingly, but I believe as a Muslim that in times of peace the holy places must be outside of the political dispute. My opinion is that they must be administered according to religious laws and not be placed under any earthly sovereign."