Following on the historic Knesset debate over Jewish prayer rights and Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, the Interior Committee chaired by MK Miri Regev (Likud Beytenu) discussed Jewish entry to the site on Wednesday morning.
The discussion was punctuated by provocative statements by Arab MKs, foremost among them Taleb Abu Arar (Raam-Taal) who claimed the Jews have no reason to visit the 3,000 year old site of their First and Second Temple, in a fine example of historical revisionism.
"Jews have nothing to look for at the Al-Aqsa Mosque," spouted Arar. "It isn't the Temple Mount, it's the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Al-Aqsa Mosque belongs to the Muslims and not the Jews, and it is on occupied land."
A key point of discussion was police management of the site.
As occurred Tuesday morning leading up to the debate, when Muslims riot and throw rocks and firecrackers, Israeli police tend to respond by forbidding Jewish access to the Temple Mount. According to the law, which ensures freedom of worship, Jews have the right to visit the site.
Police Commander Avi Bitton said at the Interior Committee that the police are allowed by the law to consider the "interest of public safety" and close the Temple Mount accordingly.
In response, Regev expressed shock that the police and Internal Security Minister are unable to maintain order on the Mount and allow the safe entry of Jewish visitors.
Regev's criticism was shared by Yehudit Dasberg of the group Women for the Temple, who charged the police of trying to "keep the quiet" by not enforcing the law when confronted with violent Arab crowds on the site, instead forbidding Jews from fulfilling their rights by visiting.
Return of the Arab MK circus
MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud Beytenu), who initiated the Tuesday discussion on the Temple Mount, remarked that if Jewish entry to the Temple Mount was treated as a red line, Jews would already be allowed on the site. He demanded that police let the Interior Committee visit the Mount.
Arar then attempted to silence Feiglin by shouting "stop it. Enough. Stop speaking nonsense."
The thuggish attempts at silencing and intimidation are reminiscent of a particular rowdy Interior Committee meeting last November, when Arab MKs went wild and disrupted talks about the Temple Mount. The Knesset Ethics Committee let the behavior off with a warning.
Conclusions of the meeting
At the conclusion of the meeting, Regev requested that the police and Internal Security Minister ensure Jews be able to visit the site every day for three and a half hours, according to the government's policy. Regev suggested additional security forces be brought in to aid the police in ensuring Jewish prayer rights.
Additionally, Regev said she would appoint a secondary committee headed by MK David Tzur (Hatnua) to investigate police activities on the Temple Mount. Police have previously caused outrage by their rough treatment and arrests of Jewish visitors for such "crimes" as possessing an Israeli flag.
Tzur spoke out in support of the police arguments for their discriminative treatment of Jewish visitors during the meeting. According to Tzur, the police should not be held at fault, as they allow or forbid entry based on the interests of public safety.
As the committee meeting showed, the Tuesday discussion on the Temple Mount has sparked an increase in dialogue about the holy site.
It also led to hurried talks and "concern" about Jewish demands for rights on their holiest site among senior officials in Egypt, the Arab League, and Jordan, where MPs called to end the peace treaty with Israel.