Biden administration demands Israel not limit Ramadan access to Temple Mount

US State Department pressures Israel not to impose cap on number of worshippers allowed on Temple Mount during Ramadan, despite ongoing war and tense security situation.

By David Rosenberg, World Israel News

The Biden administration is calling on Israel not to impose limits on Muslim access to the Temple Mount during the upcoming Islamic holy month of Ramadan, despite fears violence could break out at the contested holy site.

With Ramadan set to begin on March 10th, running through April 9th, the Netanyahu government is reportedly weighing plans to cap the number of visitors to the Temple Mount.

Given the ongoing war in Gaza, the escalating conflict with Hezbollah, and simmering tensions in Judea and Samaria, Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir (Otzma Yehudit) has called for broad restrictions on access to the Temple Mount during Ramadan, including limits not only on Palestinian Arabs but also Arab-Israelis.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller slammed the proposed restrictions, demanding Israel “facilitate access to the Temple Mount for peaceful worshippers during Ramadan, consistent with past practice.”

Speaking during a press briefing, Miller said refraining from imposing restrictions would enhance Israeli security.

“It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s not just a matter of granting people religious freedom that they deserve, to which they have a right, but it’s also a matter that is directly important to Israel’s security.”

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“It is not in Israel’s security interest to inflame tensions in the West Bank or in the broader region. And so we’ll continue to make that clear.”

According to a report by Israel’s Channel 12 on Wednesday, Netanyahu’s war cabinet had vetoed Ben-Gvir’s plan to restrict access to the Temple Mount during Ramadan to Arab-Israelis.

Instead, the government will simply impose a cap on total attendance at prayers on the Temple Mount. The initial figure is likely to be 50,000 to 60,000, according to the report, with police willing to raise the number of worshippers permitted at the holy site if no violence is reported during the first days of Ramadan.

Earlier on Wednesday, Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh called on Arab rioters to barricade themselves inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque to defy possible limits on visitation of the Temple Mount.