Has the Temple Mount Become A Hamas 'City-State'?
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been accused of hypocrisy after criticizing Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas for incitement, while simultaneously "turning a blind eye" to Hamas-led incitement in the heart of Jerusalem.
The past few days have seen renewed activity by Hamas on the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site, with Islamists literally taking it over for several hours on the eve of the Jewish festival of Pesach (Passover), in a successful bid to keep Jews from visiting the site.
This morning, riots broke out again, and Jewish families who had gathered to Jerusalem from across the country were once more banned from visiting in response - provoking a furious reaction from Temple Mount activists.
Police 'either lying or incompetent'
Temple Institute International Director Rabbi Chaim Richman told Arutz Sheva that as recently as March 30, authorities had promised him that they would "make every arrangement to facilitate Jewish visits to the Temple Mount."
At a meeting with the new police commander for the Temple Mount, Erez Tavor, which took place in the office of Old City police commander Avi Bitton, Rabbi Richman said he and a handful of Jewish rights activists were told police would do everything they can to keep the Mount open in spite of Islamist incitement.
"They told us 'We know what it means to you and it's a heavy decision to ever have to close it - we never do it if we can help it.' And yet, it's the same thing over and over again," he lamented.
Asking how rioters had managed to "smuggle" Hamas flags and mounds of rocks onto the heavily-policed site, Rabbi Richman echoed previous accusations by Temple Mount activists that "the police are either working with them [Islamists] or they are just the most bungling, emasculated, Key Stone cops in the world."
"Every festival this is the template... all they have to do is flex a bit of muscle and the police disappear!"
He pointed out that Muslim worshippers "have it both ways", as Jews are categorically forbidden from ascending the Temple Mount during Muslim holidays, and then subject to bans on Jewish festivals as well.
Temple Mount: A Hamas 'city-state'?
Ultimately, however, he stressed that the responsibility for ensuring Jewish rights on the Temple Mount - and preventing Hamas violence there - lies with the Prime Minister.
"Netanyahu condemns Abbas for not condemning Monday's shooting attack and for incitement - but he's playing games because he allows the incitement from the Temple Mount and he does absolutely nothing!" he challenged.
The fact that Israeli authorities are caving into Islamist violence and are not allowing Jewish prayer on Judaism's holiest site "is a national catastrophe," he said.
"In the middle of Jerusalem there is a city-state with diplomatic immunity where the enemy flag is unfurled and where plans are being made to attack Jews... that is absolutely unspeakable."
"They keep parroting this meaningless mantra that 'the Temple Mount is in our hands', when everyone knows Jordan is sovereign there," he added, referring to the Waqf Islamic trust which administers the site and is run by the Jordanian government.
"[Jordanian King] Abdullah says 'jump' and Bibi says 'how high?'"
The Temple Mount is the former site of the two Holy Temples of Jerusalem, as well as the Islamic Al Aqsa complex, built on the ruins of the Jewish temples.
Despite its status as the holiest site in Judaism Jewish visits are extremely limited, including restricted visiting hours and a ban on prayer or any other form of non-Muslim worship. Those who are deemed to have broken the rules are often arrested and sometimes subjected to an indefinite ban from the site. Temple Mount activists say this amounts to capitulation to Islamist groups who have threatened - and often carried out - violence in a bid to keep Jews from the site.
A bill currently tabled by Israel's Religious Affairs Minister aims to guarantee equal prayer rights for Jews and Muslims on the Temple Mount.
Hamas rally on Temple Mount Monday: