Israel MPs mull Jewish prayer at al-Aqsa site

Arab-Israeli MPs ejected from parliamentary meeting on plan to allow Jews to pray at holy site in East Jerusalem.

    Arab-Israeli MPs were ejected from an Israeli parliamentary meeting as they protested against a plan to allow Jews to pray in the compound containing the al-Aqsa mosque in occupied East Jerusalem.

    An Israeli parliamentary committee held a heated debate on Monday on whether to begin allowing Jews to pray in the compound – known as Temple Mount to Jews and the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims.

    We cannot have a situation in which a state cannot realise its sovereignty and people can't pray at sites holy to them.

    Miri Regev ,
    committee chairman

    But there was no outcome of the Knesset internal affairs committee's hearing, which was repeatedly disrupted by Arab MPs who were eventually ejected from the room.

    The Israeli deputy religious affairs minister, Eli Ben-Dahan of the far-right Jewish Home party, said his ministry was seeking legal ways to enable Jews to pray at the site, which is administered by Islamic authorities.

    Ben-Dahan, himself a rabbi, said they had approached the chief rabbinate, which is opposed to Jewish prayer in the compound, but had not yet received an answer. 

    He stressed that "if anyone expects me to go contrary to the stance of the chief rabbis of Israel -- that won't happen".

    'Third intifada' warning

    Arab MPs warned that enabling Jewish prayer in the compound would spark "a third intifada", or Palestinian uprising.

    Committee chairman Miri Regev of the right-wing Likud ruling party argued that Jews should be allowed freedom of religion to pray wherever they choose.

    "We cannot have a situation in which a state cannot realise its sovereignty and people can't pray at sites holy to them," she said.

    Regev stressed that "we don't want to go into al-Aqsa or prevent you [Muslims] from praying there, but want to enable Jews to pray on the compound as well." 

    She called threats of a third intifada "irresponsible".

    Regev noted that officials were discussing the topic in a committee closed to the public due to its sensitive nature.

    The compound, which once housed the Jewish temples, is the holiest site to Jews and the third holiest in Islam. Clashes frequently break out there between Palestinian worshippers and Israeli forces. Jews now pray at the Western Wall below it.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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