Those Loudly Condemning the Israeli Security Minister’s Visit to the Temple Mount Are Playing into His Hands

January 6, 2023 | John Minster
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After the Israeli politician Itamar Ben-Gvir’s recent visit to the Temple Mount, the UN Security Council called an emergency session and several Arab states issued condemnations. France, the UK, and the U.S. conveyed more generic warnings to Jerusalem, and the event got much coverage in the Israeli and foreign press. Yet, although Ben-Gvir has a history of inflammatory statements, this visit adhered to all the normal rules restricting Jewish access to the site, and was in no way out of the ordinary. John Minster considers the outsized response it provoked:

The Temple Mount has long been one of the Middle East’s most contentious areas, and more than one open conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has begun because of events there. But that is a separate discussion. The simple fact is that the international community is assailing Israel for allowing Ben-Gvir to do something he’s supposed to be allowed to do, in the manner he’s allowed to do it, that he has done before many times, and that many other Jews do every year. If this is how the world reacts to a prominent Jew visiting Judaism’s holiest site under the strictest terms, regardless of who he may be, what prospect is there for it ultimately acknowledging the legitimate Jewish religious rights to the Temple Mount?

By going to the Temple Mount, [Ben-Gvir] wants the world to react like this. It puts him in the public eye and indicates, as he tried to show in his campaign, that he alone is willing to speak unspoken truths and confront underlying tensions with Palestinians and Israeli Arabs that other Israeli politicians would prefer to ignore.

By reacting the way they have to his visit, the United States, the UAE, and other countries are playing right into his hands. This entire [tumult] allows Ben-Gvir to set himself up as the great defender of Jewish rights on the Temple Mount, a position that he greatly values. Even if they (with good reason) find him execrable, most Jewish Israelis are sympathetic to his insistence on Jewish rights there. Creating a phantom international crisis out of a visit that did not violate the status quo only makes Israelis more likely to support him and others like him who can use the . . . situation on the Temple Mount to their political advantage.

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