Israel’s ambassador to the UN lambasted the organization for calling a meeting to discuss an Israeli official’s visit to a Jerusalem holy site.
“Minister Ben-Gvir’s recent visit to the Temple Mount was not an incursion into al-Aqsa or any other fabrication that the Palestinians branded his visit as,” Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said during a blistering speech to the UN Security Council, Thursday. “Minister Ben-Gvir’s visit was in line with the status quo, and whoever claims otherwise is only inflaming the situation.”
Erdan also proclaimed that “Jews are allowed to visit the Temple Mount. Every Jew!”
Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir visited the Temple Mount or Haram al Sharif, a sacred place for both Jewish and Muslim peoples, respectively. His visit, recorded by video, included a pointed moment in which he stared into the camera and said, “We don’t give in. We don’t surrender. We don’t blink” – a reference to the Jewish claim to the site – according to the Washington Post.
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One Israeli lawmaker accused Ben Gvir of “goading the entire world” with his actions, which stirred protests across the Arab world and raised concerns among Western nations that Israel might not abide by long-held understandings about access to such sites.
Ben-Gvir broke no laws, but Jewish people hold that it is forbidden to go to the Temple Mount, also known as “the place of the Holy of Holies.”
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The visit prompted representatives of the United Arab Emirates to call for a UN Security Council urgent session over the visit, which quickly grew heated as Israeli and Palestinian representatives verbally sparred.
UN Assistant Secretary–General Khaled Khiari called the visit “particularly inflammatory” given Ben-Gvir’s “past advocacy for changes to the status quo.” The need to maintain the current understanding of shared ownership over the site remains key to many policymakers regarding Jerusalem.
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“At this sensitive moment, all efforts to lower tensions should be encouraged, while provocations, inflammatory steps, unilateral actions and threats of violence must be categorically rejected,” Khiari said.
France’s representative to the UN Nicolas de Riviere, who serves as a permanent member to the Security Council, urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “ensure that the status quo of the Holy Places is respected.”
US deputy ambassador to the UN Robert Wood similarly stressed the understanding that “Netanyahu’s governing platform calls for preservation of the status quo with relation to the holy places.”
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“We expect the Government of Israel to follow through on that commitment,” Wood said.
The status quo allows for Muslims alone to worship at the site, where the Al-Aqsa mosque stands. Ben Gvir’s supporters insist that the minister never stepped on the actual believed location of the Holy of Holies and never prayed, therefore avoiding any violations.
The Palestinian representative to the world body, Riyad Mansour, called Ben-Gvir “an extremist minister of an extremist state” who was convicted of incitement and is known for his “racist views.” Mansour said that Ben Gvir was committed to allowing Jews to pray at the site and urged nations “to uphold international law and the historic status quo” and warned that “if they don’t, our Palestinian people will.”
Erdan called the session a “waste” that would show “nothing,” stressing that tens of thousands of Jewish travelers visit the site as long as they enter from “one specific entrance, on specific days, at limited hours, in small groups and under heavy security detail.”
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“When this council dedicates its valuable time to “shows about nothing,” it legitimizes the poisonous lies of the Palestinians, and as a result, empowers terrorists to continue in their murderous ways,” Erdan said.
“While the Temple Mount is sadly not yet a house of prayer for all nations, it is still the right of every Jew – no matter what title they hold – to at least, at least visit this holiest of holy spots,” he added. “Jews will continue visiting the Temple Mount, and whoever believes in tolerance and coexistence should support that.”
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.