Israel MP holds 'protest' office outside Jerusalem holy site

Jerusalem (AFP) –


A rabbi and lawmaker from Israel's ruling party held office hours Monday outside a sensitive Jerusalem holy site to protest a government ban on visits by MPs and ministers.

Yehuda Glick, who was shot in 2014 over his campaign for Jewish prayer rights at the Haram al-Sharif compound, known to Jews as Temple Mount, said it was a one-day action.

"I'm here to protest the fact that the prime minister won't enable police to allow us to enter the Temple Mount," Glick told AFP.

"I suffer every day I can't enter the Temple Mount," he said, as he held court at one of the gates to the compound alongside a number of bodyguards.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had in October 2015 imposed the ban on visits by MPs and ministers to the flashpoint religious site in an effort to restore calm after an outbreak of violence.

The unrest was fuelled in part by fears among Palestinians that Israel was planning to assert further control over the compound in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

The site, which includes the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, is the holiest site in Judaism and the third-holiest in Islam, and it is central to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Glick had in March petitioned the supreme court against Netanyahu's ban.

The government decided in response to allow lawmakers to visit the compound for a "pilot number of days" in July, but an outbreak of violence there put off the plan.

- 'We don't want to harm Muslims' -

Glick, a US-born rabbi, survived a 2014 assassination attempt by a Palestinian over his campaign for Jewish prayer rights at the site before he joined parliament as a member of Netanyahu's Likud party.

Violence erupted in and around the site after three Arab Israelis shot dead two Israeli policemen on July 14.

Israel responded by installing metal detectors at the entrance to the Al-Aqsa mosque complex, used as a staging point for the attack.

For nearly two weeks, worshippers refused to submit to the checks and staged mass prayers in surrounding streets.

Ensuing protests and clashes left seven Palestinians dead, while three Israelis were stabbed to death by a Palestinian assailant.

The crisis abated when Israel removed the detectors.

Jews are allowed to visit the compound but not pray there, and the site has been the scene of regular confrontation when they try to flout the rule.

Glick described the site as "the essence of my life."

"There's no reason in the world to think that my entering the Temple Mount will stir trouble," he said.

"The Jewish god is inclusive... he wants to see the prayer of Muslims and Jews and Christians and Indonesians and Mexicans," Glick said.

"We don't want to harm the Muslims, on the contrary... when I see a Muslim praying at the Temple Mount it fills my heart with great joy. It shows me the fulfullment of the prophecies of our prophets."