Going one better than fellow Arab MK Ahmed Tibi, Jamal Zahalka (United Arab List) didn't wait for Friday to challenge Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's declaration that no MKs, Jewish or Arab, would be allowed on the Temple Mount. Zahalka presented himself on Thursday afternoon at the entrance to the Mount – after Tibi had said earlier that he would lead a delegation of Arab MKs to the Mount on Friday.
Zahalka was not allowed to enter the compound. Speaking outside the Temple gates, Zahalka said that Netanyahu “is not a king and he does not make the law. I have come to defend the mosques and to protest against the fanatics who want to light a fire here. Who is Netanyahu anyway?”
Zahalka remained in his spot for nearly an hour, arguing with police who blocked his way. Speaking afterwards, he called on Netanyahu' “to stop the provocations. Netanyahu wants quiet? Let him end the occupation.”
Ironically, Zahalka himself has been part of that provocation. Last week, he harassed police who were allowing Jewish visitors to visit the Temple Mount, going on a rant against police and Israeli officials. "Why do you allow them in?" Zahalka shouts at police officers. "The hell with them, it's just a provocation to hurt the feelings of Muslims. You are criminals, lunatics!" he continues. "You are here in our place [i.e. Muslims - ed.], this is my home."
Watch: Zahalka during previous Temple Mount visit
Earlier in September, another video clip showed MK Ahmed Tibi actually striking an Israel Police officer on the mount - a criminal offense - while Zahalka "orders" police to leave the site.
On Thursday morning, the Prime Minister's Office clarified that Netanyahu's directive to ban ministers and MKs from the Temple Mount until further notice applies to Jewish and Arab Knesset members alike. In order to “reduce tensions,” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday forbade ministers and MKs from his coalition from visiting the Temple Mount, leading to sharp criticism from Jewish MKs and ministers. Earlier Thursday, MK Uri Ariel said that it was “abnormal and unfair to ban Jews from the Temple Mount. It is probably illegal to ban MKs and ministers from doing this, and it is certainly illegal to ban Jewish MKs but not Arab MKs.”
In a separate interview, Diaspora Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin said that he could “understand the logic in a situation where it is not a good idea for MKs or ministers to visit the Temple Mount. But it is not clear to me why this does not apply to MKs from the United Arab List, considering the level of incitement that emanates from them.”
Tibi earlier told Israel Radio that he would arrive with Arab MKs on Friday – and that Netanyahu had better not try to keep them away from the site. “This is an illegal, insane decision,” said Tibi. “To lump Arab MKs together with fanatics like Uri Ariel and Tsipi Hotovely is like accusing a homeowner of violence when he tries to defend his home from a robber. Al-Aqsa is ours. We will all be there on Friday.”
Zahalka said that he had a right to be at the Mount, while Jewish MKs and ministers didn't. “There is a big difference between me and the right-wing ministers, who only come to make trouble. I come to show respect to this place, but they come to occupy. I am here by rights. I am wanted here. They are not.”