Netanyahu defends Ben-Gvir’s visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Ilia Yefimovich - ZUMA)

Middle East Monitor  /  January 4, 2023

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended on Tuesday what the Palestinian Authority has called the “invasion” of Al-Aqsa Mosque by his National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, Al-Quds has reported.

Nevertheless, an official in Netanyahu’s office said that the newly re-elected prime minister is fully committed to the site’s decades-old status quo allowing only Muslim worship there. The official said that Ben-Gvir’s tour around the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque complied with an arrangement that allows non-Muslims to visit but not pray.

The official said that several Israeli ministers have entered Al-Aqsa Mosque during the past few years, including former National Security Minister Gilad Erdan. “Claims of a change in the status quo are groundless…” insisted Netanyahu’s office. “Hamas will not dictate what we shall do.”

However, Ben-Gvir’s visit to the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa prompted local, regional and international criticism, even from close allies of Israel.

“The United States stands firmly for preservation of the status quo with respect to the holy sites in Jerusalem,” said a National Security Council spokesperson. “Any unilateral action that jeopardizes the status quo is unacceptable.”

The spokesperson added that the US called on Netanyahu to preserve his commitment to the status quo of holy sites.