|On September 15th Ir Amim warned that the Israeli government may decide to keep the Temple Mount/Haram alSharif open for Jewish visitors during the lockdown. Media reports yesterday reveal that in contradiction to the Waqf's request to fully close the holy place for three weeks during the lockdown the Israeli police intends to allow Jewish visits to the compound.
Since according to lockdown regulations most public places will have to close and since one of the few exceptions which allow people to gather is for the purpose of praying, the Israeli decision is an almost formal declaration that the Israeli authorities view Jewish visits to the Temple Mount/Haram alSharif as an act of Jewish worship: A stark violation of the status quo.
According to the decades long status quo and the explicit commitment of Prime Minister Netanyahu from 2015, non-Muslims arrive at the holy place as visitors and not as part of religious worship. Since touristic sites are to be closed during lockdown, adhering to the status quo means that visits of non-Muslims to the Temple Mount/Haram alSharif should not be possible during lockdown. Therefore the fact that Israeli police announced the opposite grants Jewish visits to the compound worship status.
Such a blatant violation of the status quo will have far reaching ramifications.
The minister of Internal Security Amir Ohana (Likud) – under whose authority the police operates - is a longtime supporter of the Temple Movements. On different occasions in previous years he visited the Temple Mount/Haram alSharif with Temple activists and announced his desire that Jewish prayer will be allowed there.
Reacting to the Israeli intention to allow Jewish visits to the compound during lockdown the Waqf retreated yesterday from its intention to close the holy place to Muslim worshipers. The Israeli government's top interest at a time when COVID19 rates in Israel are soaring is to prevent gatherings of people. Instead of embracing the Waqf's responsible decision and working in coordination with it for the health and wellbeing of Israelis and Palestinians under its control, the Israeli government is currently doing the opposite for the sake of the Temple Movements.
So far the Prime minister's office has not announced its position on the issue. The lockdown is to begin on Friday afternoon (September 18). Since the compound is not open to non-Muslim visitors on Fridays and Saturdays the Prime Minister has until Sunday morning to intervene and prevent the dangerous move.