Bennett turnaround: Jews have no right to pray on Temple Mount

After saying Jews have the right to freedom of worship at their holiest site, the prime minister issued a clarification.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett officially took back the right of Jewish worshipers to pray on the Temple Mount Monday – one day after having acknowledged their entitlement to do so.

Throughout Sunday, which was Tisha b’Av, the Hebrew date when both the First and Second Temples were destroyed, some 1,700 Jews visited the Mount, where the Temples had stood. Hamas and other Gaza-based terror organizations had issued threats, warning the Jews not to ascend the Mount, and early-morning visitors were greeted by Muslim stone-throwers.

Bennett thanked the police for maintaining order and managing the visits “with responsibility and consideration, while maintaining freedom of worship for Jews on the Mount.”

This marked a welcome change for the visitors, as most often, Arab violence or even the threat of it has been answered by police clearing the Mount of the Jewish groups instead cracking down on criminal behavior.

Bennett emphasized that “full freedom of worship on the Temple Mount will be maintained for Muslims as well” during their holidays later in the week.

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) subsequently issued a ‘clarification’ on Monday, stating that the “status quo” remains in place, according to which Jews only have the right to visit their holiest site but not to pray there.

While the prime minister gave no reason for backing down on his statement Sunday, some pundits suggest it was in reaction to the vehement objections to the visits raised by its Islamist coalition partner, Ra’am, as well as by Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.

“The al-Aqsa Mosque, in its 144 dunams, is solely the property of Muslims, and no one else has any right to it,” the Ra’am party said in a statement.

The Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman said the Mount “is a place of worship purely for Muslims” and condemned the “violation of the historical and legal status quo [and] international law.”

The Religious Zionist Party immediately condemned Bennett’s “retreat.”

“Mansour Abbas got angry again and Bennett folded again,” the right-wing party said. “This time it’s  at the expense of the rights of the Jews on the Temple Mount. Unfortunately, the State of Israel is being held captive by supporters of terrorism.”