The site, located in the Old City of Jerusalem, is where Jews believe the Holy Temple stood before it was destroyed by the Babylonians and by the Romans. Jews around the world face the site in daily prayers.
It is also holy to Muslims, who refer to it as the Haram al-Sharif, though it is only the third-holiest site in Islam; worshippers at the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount face the Ka’aba in Mecca, the holiest site in Islam.
Israel conquered the entire Old City in a defensive war against Jordan during the Six Day War in 1967, when Jordan — despite Israeli please — joined Egypt and Syria in battle. In an effort to respect Islamic sentiments, Israel allowed Muslim religious authorities to continue to run the Temple Mount and to restrict Jews’ access to the site (which some religious Jews will not visit anyway, due to concerns about stepping on sacred ground).
Most Jews pray at the Western Wall, which is one of the ancient retaining walls of the Temple Mount. However, many Jews feel that they are entitled to visit the Temple Mount and that current restrictions are discriminatory.
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Itamar Ben-Gvir, the leader of a right-wing religious nationalist party and the country’s new minister of police, promised to visit the Temple Mount as a statement that Jews were equally entitled to access their holiest site.
Palestinians, who have used the site as a staging ground for riots in the past, warned of consequences if Ben-Gvir carried out his promise, which he did earlier this week, visiting the site for 13 minutes without incident.
They were able to provoke a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, where Israel’s ambassador, Gilad Erdan, pointed out the absurdity of holding an emergency meeting about a Jew visiting the center of Judaism:
“We are here discussing the peaceful 13-minute visit of a Jewish minister to the holiest Jewish site under the sovereignty of the liberal democracy of Israel,” said Erdan, who blasted the 15-member Security Council for not holding similar meetings in response to Russian actions in Ukraine, Palestinian terror or Iranian attacks on international shipping.
“This meeting creates a sense of emergency over a non-event,” he added.
The U.S., which normally backs Israel at the Security Council, offered a muted response in which it implied that it joined the rest of the world in criticizing the Israeli government for allowing Ben-Gvir to visit the site. In his remarks, Ambassador Robert Wood, Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs, said:
Secretary Blinken has said very clearly that it’s absolutely critical for all sides to exercise restraint, refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric, at the Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount and other holy sites in Jerusalem, both in word and in practice. In this spirit, we oppose any and all unilateral actions that depart from the historic status quo, which are unacceptable.
We note that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s governing platform calls for preservation of the status quo with relation to the holy places. We expect the Government of Israel to follow through on that commitment.
Many Israelis still recall that the Obama-Biden administration allowed the Security Council to pass a resolution in 2016 that declared the Israeli presence in Jerusalem illegal under international law, which was regarded as a betrayal of both Obama’s campaign promises and the U.S.-Israel alliance. President Donald Trump reversed those policies, visiting the Western Wall and moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, among other steps.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.