Knesset Committee Debates Permitting MKs To Visit Har Habayis

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The Knesset House Committee on Monday conducted a heated discussion surrounding the matter of elected officials being permitted to visit Har Habayis. Chairman MK Yoav Kisch insisted there is no violation of the law which grants MKs parliamentary immunity. MK (Likud) Yehuda Glick insists PM Netanyahu is violating the High Court of Justice.

MK Yehuda Glick and MK Shuli Muallem-Refael demanded that MKs be allowed to go up to Har Habayis in the Knesset on Tuesday morning, and that the Knesset members were arrested three years ago due to security tensions and fear of a conflagration in the area. In spite of the relative calm on Har Habayis and the recommendations of both the Ethics Committee and the police to allow visits, subject to coordination with the security forces, the Prime Minister’s Office refrains from canceling the ban on visiting. They add there are MKs who visit Har Habayis in absolute violation of the ban in place, referring to Arab MKs.

Glick stated a MK’s parliamentary immunity is to permit them access to places citizens may not visit, yet here, regarding Har Habayis, the reverse is true. He added the High Court canceled the ban, backed by police recommendations, while PM Netanyahu is not budging.

Muallem explained that the discussion is not surrounding the kedusha of the site, or their right to visit and claims to the site, however, the fact they are not permitted to actualize their parliamentary immunity is unacceptable.

MK Ahmed Tibi added the reason visiting for the prohibition has nothing to do with Arab MKs and it should apply to them.

Jerusalem Police Chief Yoram Halevi added that the decision of three years ago, to prohibit MKs from visiting Har Habayis was during a different political climate. He added today the situation is far calmer, but this is so due to many preemptive police activities. Anyone, regardless if the person is a Jew or Arab, who disturbs the peace is distanced immediately. He explains police recommend permitting MKs to visit providing this is done within a framework that permits police to continue maintaining order.

Kisch explained, “I come from a home that taught it is forbidden to visit Har Habayis, and therefore, I myself do not visit. However, I will fight for the right of every Jews to visit any place in Eretz Yisrael, and to actualize freedom of religion.”

Towards the end of the meeting, Kisch added that he does not see any violation in this case since the law permits using discretion regarding visiting Har Habayis, even when concerning MKs. “The law permits taking the security situation into account. The prime minister’s decision is not bases solely on police considerations”, Kisch concluded.

(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)