Allow Knesset members to ascend Temple Mount during Ramadan, says attorney-general

New attorney general slams Omer Bar-Lev’s efforts to preemptively block MKs from ascending Temple Mount during Ramadan.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev has no right to preemptively ban MKs from ascending the Temple Mount or demand that they receive advance approval for a visit by Jerusalem’s top police commander, wrote Israeli Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara in a scathing letter published by Hebrew news site Mako on Tuesday.

“I would like to comment that the decision to prevent an MK from entering the Temple Mount should be made with the agreement of the prime minister and the minister of defense, as those who are in charge of national security, and after consultation with the Israel Security Agency,” wrote Baharav-Miara in a letter addressed to Bar-Lev.

“Restricting an MK’s access to a place that is not [a] private domain is possible only when there is a reasonable basis for harming state security or for the purpose of preventing the disclosure of a military secret. The criteria you specified deviate from the criteria set forth in the section of the law.”

Last week, Bar-Lev issued a directive to prevent MKs from visiting the Temple Mount during the Muslim Ramadan holiday over fears that their presence could trigger an outbreak of violence.

He advised Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai that MKs wishing to visit the site must receive advance permission from himself and Shabtai, Channel 12 reported.

But Baharav-Miara said that Bar-Lev did not have the authority to make such a decision or issue an order of this nature.

After receiving Baharav-Miara’s criticism, Bar-Lev doubled down on his statements, arguing that barring MKs from visiting the Temple Mount was a life-or-death matter and that the onus of responsibility was on the Israeli police to prevent behavior that could spark Arab violence.

“There is no doubt that the freedom of movement of a Knesset member is absolute all year round and throughout the country, including on the Temple Mount,” Bar-Lev wrote.

“The question arises: In a situation where an unforeseen danger to the safety and life of a Knesset member develops, is it the duty of the police to act to prevent the danger to the life of a Knesset member?”

Tom Nisani, director of the Beyadenu NGO, which advocates for Jewish prayer rights on the Temple Mount, told World Israel News that efforts to block Jews from visiting the site during the Islamic holiday is nothing new.

“Another year and the Ramadan holiday is approaching, and the upper echelon in the Israeli government are working to restrict Jews from the site, rather than restricting those who commit and instigate violence,” he said.

“On the day when there will be a change of focus and the violence and instigators will be [effectively] dealt with, the situation on the Temple Mount and in Jerusalem will look different.”