The Israeli Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a petition filed by a right-wing party challenging a police decision to limit the use of metal detectors at the entrance of the Temple Mount to Jews and other non-Muslim visitors.
The petition was submitted by the heads of the "Otzma Yehudit" party, including former National Union MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari, Hevron activist Baruch Marzel, Itamar Ben-Gvir and chairman of the Lehava anti-assimilation group, Bentzi Gopstein.
In July 2017, after the murder of two police officers on the Temple Mount, metal detectors were put in place at the entrances to the Mount. They were soon taken down at most of the entrances, however, following a wave of violent protests. Only metal detectors at the Mugrabi Gate were left in place. The Mugrabi entrance is used primarily by Jewish visitors and foreign tourists.
The petition claimed that doing so was unlawful and goes against the principle of equality as only tourists and Jews are required to pass through metal detectors as a result of the change, while Muslims are not inspected at all.
The petitioners claimed that while Muslims have been responsible for attacks and violent disturbances on the Temple Mount, it is the Jews who are forced to undergo scrutiny.
State attorney Dr. Yuval Roitman said at the hearing that the police have broad discretion when it comes to weighing considerations of equality against security needs.
Attorney Ben-Gvir, of the Otzma Yehudit Movement, countered that in countless Supreme Court decisions, the court sided on the principle of equality over security needs. He cited examples of limitations on airport checks on Arab travellers, the use of separate roads for Jews and Arabs, fences and security checkpoints. Equality is the highest constitutional principle and violating it may only be permitted in the most difficult circumstances, Ben-Gvir noted.
President of the Supreme Court Esther Hayut rejected the petition, however, rejecting the petitioners’ argument that the decision to remove the metal detectors from the eight entrances used by Muslims to enter the Temple Mount, violated the principle equality.
Hayut stated that the right of Jews who enter from the Mugrabi gate to worship on the temple mount is not violated. Therefore, she claimed that that despite the different level of scrutiny on Muslim and non-Muslim visitors to the Mount, Jews and other non-Muslim visitors were still able to ascend the Mount, and thus there was no basis for the court to intervene and restrict the police’s discretion in the matter.
Right-wing activist Michael Ben-Ari criticized the ruling saying, "If these were Arabs who were being discriminated against, the Supreme Court Justices would rush to issue orders [against it]. The discrimination between Arabs and Jews is not only taking place on the Temple Mount, but also in the Supreme Court."
Attorney Ben-Gvir also slammed the ruling.
"This is a black day for Israel democracy, when the Supreme Court perpetuates discrimination and without hesitation, justifies it."
He continued by saying that the decision was unfortunate since, "In dozens of decisions, Justices Haim, Meltzer and Hendel have ruled against discrimination."