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UN Security Council to meet over Ben-Gvir Temple Mount visit

Israel had reportedly lobbied members of the forum to forgo the session, but is now focusing its diplomatic efforts on preventing any form of censure of the Jewish state.

Itamar Ben-Gvir makes his way to visit the Temple Mount during Jerusalem Day celebrations, May 29, 2022. Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Itamar Ben-Gvir makes his way to visit the Temple Mount during Jerusalem Day celebrations, May 29, 2022. Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

The United Nations Security Council will convene on Thursday to discuss Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s visit earlier this week to Temple Mount.

Israel had reportedly lobbied members of the forum to forgo the session, but is now focusing its diplomatic efforts on preventing censure of the Jewish state, whether a unanimous statement or a resolution (which would be unlikely to pass due to the United States’ veto power in the body).

Ben-Gvir visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City on Tuesday, saying afterward that Israel “would not surrender to threats from Hamas.” The terrorist group had vowed to “ignite the region” if the minister visited the site.

“The Temple Mount is the most important place for the people of Israel,” Ben-Gvir noted during his visit, adding: “We maintain the freedom of movement for Muslims and Christians, but Jews also go up to the site, and those who make threats must be dealt with with an iron fist.”

Palestinian U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour on Wednesday wrote a letter to Japan, which this month holds the Security Council presidency, slamming Ben-Gvir’s “storming of the Al Aqsa Mosque.”

“The Security Council must condemn and demand an immediate halt to all aggressions by Israel, the occupying power, against the Palestinian people and their holy sites, especially in Jerusalem,” Mansour wrote. “Only such urgent, serious action can avert the violent explosion and religious war that this Israeli government and its hateful, racist extremists are threatening to provoke,” he added.

Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Gilad Erdan will deliver a speech to the Council during the session.

“A Jew visiting the holiest site in Judaism doesn’t deviate from the status quo. Israel has maintained the status quo for many years, even though it discriminates against Jews & Christians who can only visit, not pray. Anyone who says differently jeopardizes security & stability,” Erdan wrote in a Twitter post on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Hamas said in a statement, “The crime of the fascist Zionist minister Ben-Gvir in invading the Al Aqsa Mosque is a continuation of the aggression of the occupation against the holy places.”

The Palestinian people “will continue to defend the holy places… and cleanse them of the filth of the occupation. This campaign will not stop until the final victory of our people and the expulsion of the conqueror from all our land,” the statement continued.

The Palestinian Authority also condemned the visit, describing it as an “unprecedented provocation.” The previous day, Ramallah had said that changes by Israel to the status quo at the Temple Mount would be a “declaration of war with serious consequences for everyone.”

Similarly, Jordan on Tuesday denounced Ben-Gvir “in the severest of terms [for] the storming of the Al Aqsa Mosque and violation of its sanctity.”

The Israeli minister did not enter the mosque or approach it.

“Under the status quo, ministers have gone up to the Temple Mount in recent years, including [then-]Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan; therefore, the claim that a change has been made in the status quo is without foundation,” Netanyahu said in response to an outpouring of global anger over the visit.

The Biden administration denounced Ben-Gvir’s move, saying the United States “oppose[s] any unilateral actions that undercut the historic status quo. They are unacceptable.”

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said he “has been very clear in conversations with the Israeli government on the issue of preserving the status quo in Jerusalem’s holy sites,” and that “actions that prevent that are unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia called Ben-Gvir’s visit a “provocative action” and urged Israel “to act responsibly.” The Saudis also said such visits could “cause an escalation in the region.”

Egypt warned against “negative repercussions of such measures on security and stability in the occupied territories and the region, and on the future of the peace process.”

The United Arab Emirates requested the emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council over Ben-Gvir’s visit.

The UAE submitted the request on behalf of the Arab League and at the behest of Jordan and the Palestinians.

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