Yesterday morning, Israel’s newly appointed—and highly controversial—national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir made a short visit to the Temple Mount, during a time it is regularly open to Jews. (Muslims generally have complete access to the area, while Israeli authorities sharply limit the entry of Jews.) Ben-Gvir’s visit was preceded by threats of violence from Hamas, as well as warnings from inside and outside the Jewish state that it could provoke unrest and other dire consequences. Although the politician’s thirteen-minute walk around the Mount was condemned by Jordan, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and other countries, it proved uneventful. Yaakov Katz, writing before the visit, argues that, whatever one thinks of Ben-Gvir’s politics, he should be allowed onto Judaism’s holiest site:
The dilemma for the government is the following: if the Temple Mount belongs to Israel and is under Israeli sovereignty, then there should be no issue with any Israeli, especially an elected official, visiting the site. That it is such an issue shows the inherent problem.
On the other hand, there is a true fear of violence, which Israel always wants to avoid. It is also understandable that Ben-Gvir is not just any politician. He is viewed suspiciously by many Israelis and definitely by the Palestinians and the international community. Nevertheless, he is an elected Israeli official who is now a senior minister in the cabinet.
And the final point is this: of anyone thinks that violence will erupt because Ben-Gvir visits the Temple Mount, then it is important to keep in mind that the Palestinian terrorist groups do not need an excuse to launch attacks against Israel. They can use the Ben-Gvir visit this week, and next week, they will find another reason. The bottom line is that these [reasons] are just excuses. That is exactly what Hamas did in 2021, when it used the Jerusalem Day parade to launch rockets at Israel. A terrorist group bent on Israel’s destruction does not need excuses to attack.
Which is why the questions we should be asking are different: why is Israel under threat from a terrorist group for allowing Jews to pray at Judaism’s holiest site? Why is it okay for everyone else to pray there and not for Jews? And why do these Palestinian groups get away with making such threats?