JERUSLAEM (JNS/AP) – During a visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on Sunday, Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said that despite Hamas threats, Israel remains sovereign of the holy site.
“I’m happy to go up to the Temple Mount, the most important place for the people of Israel,” the Otzma Yehudit Party head said in a statement. “It should be said that the police are doing a wonderful job here and once again prove who owns the [the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem. All the threats from Hamas will not help, we are the owners of Jerusalem and the whole Land of Israel,” he continued.
השר לביטחון לאומי איתמר בן גביר עלה הבוקר להר הבית: "אנחנו בעלי הבית כאן ובתקציב הקרוב אני מקווה שגם הנגב והגליל יהיה על ראש שמחתנו". pic.twitter.com/RKwV2Vsiug
— חזקי ברוך (@HezkeiB) May 21, 2023
Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh called Ben-Gvir’s visit a “blatant attack” on the mosque. Jordan’s Foreign Ministry called it “a provocative step that is condemned, and a dangerous and unacceptable escalation.” Neighboring Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel, also issued a condemnation.
Rabbi Shimshon Elbaum, head of the Temple Mount Administration, said Ben-Gvir’s visit “gives meaning to the slogan ‘The Temple Mount is in our hands’ which recently turned 56 years old.” Elbaum was referring to the message broadcast from Israel Defense Forces commander Mordechai Gur after his brigade liberated the Old City from the Jordanians in 1967.
Around 1,200 Jews visited the Temple Mount on Thursday ahead of Jerusalem Day, which began on Thursday evening. The annual flag march through the Old City and other festivities associated with the holiday, which marks the reunification of Israel’s capital during the 1967 Six-Day War, were also held on Thursday so as not to run up against the start of Shabbat.
Among those who visited the site on Thursday were several Knesset members, including Development of the Periphery, the Negev and the Galilee Minister Yitzhak Shimon Wasserlauf of Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit Party.
In his statement on Sunday, Ben-Gvir also addressed the Knesset vote on Wednesday boycotted by his party in protest against budget cuts to programs for the Galilee and the Negev
“We must remember our brothers in the Negev and the Galilee. In the upcoming budget we must invest in the Negev and the Galilee. Jerusalem is our soul, the Negev and the Galilee is our soul, we must invest, we must act there, we must be the owners of the Negev, also of the Galilee, and the basis is the budget,” he said.