A visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem by the far-right figurehead of the new Israeli Government, Itamar Ben-Gvir, on Tuesday has been branded as "provocative." An EU spokesperson has asked for maintaining the "status quo" in the holy sites in order to avoid exacerbating further tensions.
Last Thursday, Benjamin Netanyahu returned to being Israeli Prime Minister as his Likud party formed the country's governing majority. To accomplish this, he had to count on the support of far-right parties, who were handed various ministries in Netanyahu's latest government.
Among the new far-right faces in the Israeli Government is the Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir, whose Otzma Yehudit party has been labelled as "ultra-nationalist." In one of his first moves as a minister, he decided to pay a visit to the Temple Mount (al-Ḥaram al-Sharīf) on Tuesday.
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The Temple Mount, or in Arabic Haram al-Sharif with its two mosques, is managed by an Islamic Foundation (Waqf) but Israel, and by consequence Ben Gvir, is responsible for its security.
His visit early Tuesday morning proceeded peacefully this time but sparked fears that he has in mind to change the status quo at the Temple Mount and that the visit will be followed by Jewish prayer there.
The Israeli sephardic chief rabbi denounced Ben Gvir's visit to the Temple Mount. According to Jewish tradition, the exact place of the ruined ancient Jewish temple is not known. The whole Temple Mount is therefore considered as sacred ground and forbidden for Jews to set foot on.
Ben Gvir's visit led to growing fears of increased tensions in the region, with the Palestinian Authority branding the move as "provocative" and even describing the visit as an "assault" on the mosques.
A spokesperson for Josep Borrell, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, called for maintaining "the status quo of the holy sites" and for all parties involved to de-escalate.
“What must be avoided are actions and provocations that fuel these tensions,” they concluded.