Bennett Backtracks on Change in Status Quo on Har HaBayis

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli police officers guard outside Har HaBayis. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is not changing the norms at Har HaBayis to allow Jewish prayer there, his office said Monday, walking back comments that sparked angry reactions a day earlier.

Bennett and the Arab party Ra’am clashed on Sunday after Jews were allowed to sing and pray in certain parts of Har HaBayis on the occasion of Tishah B’Av.

Ra’am, which is a critical faction in Bennett’s razor-thin coalition that spans both right-wing and left-wing parties, was outraged after footage emerged showing Jews, who are normally not allowed to pray or sing on Har HaBayis, singing Israel’s anthem and even praying discreetly in a secluded area.

“Settlers and MKs who trespass into the Al-Aqsa Mosque could lead to disturbances and a regional religious war,” Ra’am warned. “We will not allow this to happen – we won’t tolerate prayer and the singing of HaTikvah in the mosque that is under Islamic ownership, all 35 acres.”

Bennett quickly tweeted, both in Hebrew and in Arabic, that the latest events do not reflect any change of the rules that prohibit Jewish religious practices in the plaza, which has two of the most sacred sites in Muslim tradition.

The statement read: “Prime Minister Naftali Bennett spoke with Public Security Minister Bar-Lev and Israel Police Inspector-General Shabtai and thanked them for managing the events on the Temple Mount with responsibility and consideration while maintaining freedom of worship for Jews on the Mount. Prime Minister Bennett emphasized that freedom of worship on the Temple Mount will be fully preserved for Muslims as well, who will soon be marking the fast of the Day of Arafah and the Eid al-Adha.”

It should be noted that all leading Poskim say it is forbidden to enter Har HaBayis these days.

Earlier, brief clashes erupted between Israeli police and Palestinians at the Al-Aqsa Mosque over visits by Jews.

The status quo on Har HaBayis has not changed, the Prime Minister’s Office clarified on Monday, reversing a message affirming Jewish freedom of worship a day after sending it.

“There is no change in the status quo,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s spokesman Matan Sidi said. “There is continuity from the last government in the [current] government’s policy on Har HaBayis.”

The “status quo” refers to allowing non-Muslims to visit, but not to pray, while Muslims pray in the Al-Aksa Mosque and often in the outdoor spaces around it.