Jason Greenblatt slams criticism of Israeli minister’s visit to Temple Mount

The former American envoy to the Middle East says the status quo actually means Jews have a right to visit and even pray at the site, as it is historically theirs.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A former American envoy to the Middle East slammed Wednesday the ongoing uproar over National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s brief visit the previous day to the Temple Mount, rejecting the claim that it was a violation of the status quo and calling for an end to anti-Jewish discrimination at the site.

In a series of tweets, Jason Greenblatt, who was one of the chief architects of the Abraham Accords, said that “The demands to maintain the so-called status is completely unhelpful & deepens the problem,” since “like so many things about this conflict people say different things – ‘status quo,’ ‘historical status quo,’ ‘legal status quo’ & people define these differently.”

In a complete repudiation of Palestinian claims that the mountain-top in the Old City of Jerusalem is solely Muslim in nature, he reminded his followers that historically, “Jews (of which I am a very proud one), had two Temples on the site and worshiped on this holy site for a very significant period of time, over the span of two Temple periods.”

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Since it is therefore “the holiest site for Jews,” he asked why people “still demand” the “discrimination against Jews & Jewish prayer” there, “in a world where people of good faith are attempting to fight against all sorts of discrimination.”

“It never made sense to me that this wasn’t part of the ‘status quo,’ Greenblatt continued. “That’s why in the peace plan we released it called for all religions to be allowed to pray at this site which is holy to countless people around the world, and to end the discrimination against Jews at this site.”

“To demand otherwise is completely dishonest. Let’s end the discrimination, once & for all,” he finished.

By defending the idea of Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, Greenblatt went further than the decades-long stance of the government, no matter which party was in charge, that allows only Muslims to worship there. When right-wing activists periodically challenge the rule in the Supreme Court, the judges uphold the theoretical right of freedom of worship and the notion of equal rights, but give the police the right to overrule them for security reasons.

Since the Palestinians continually threaten violence on the Mount and often follow through with riots, the police regularly even close the holy site to Jewish visitors altogether. The idea pushed by religious activists to establish even a small synagogue in a far corner of the Mount is dismissed out of hand.

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Ben-Gvir’s visit, the latest of many he has made to the site over the years, consisted of a 15-minute walk at 7:00 AM when the Mount was almost empty of people, and it passed without incident. Many Arab countries as well as the Palestinians immediately blasted it as a move against the Muslim nation as a whole, a blatant “provocation,” and “a violation of international law,” among other charges.

Western countries, including the United States, were more temperate in their criticism but still called it a “unilateral action” that “violated the historic status quo.” The White House, State Department, and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides all called it “unacceptable.”

The United Nations Security Council was convened Thursday to discuss Israel’s alleged violation, and State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters that the U.S. would reiterate its condemnation of Israel at the meeting.