Yes, Israeli officials have the right to visit the Temple Mount and pray there, too

Israel Palestinians
Jewish worshippers visit the Temple Mount at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, in the Old City of Jerusalem, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. Itamar Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist Israeli Cabinet minister, visited the flashpoint Jerusalem holy site Tuesday for the first time since taking office in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new far-right government last week. The visit is seen by Palestinians as a provocation. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo) Maya Alleruzzo/AP

Yes, Israeli officials have the right to visit the Temple Mount and pray there, too

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U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is right to blast Biden administration officials for siding with Palestinians against Israeli visits to the Temple Mount. He also is right to blast the administration for repeatedly siding against Israel, which essentially means siding with Islamic terrorists.

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism. Any restrictions on Jewish use of the site should be anathema. Muslims or any others who insist otherwise have no moral standing.

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Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s newly installed national security minister, is a Jewish hard-liner. On Jan. 3, he visited the Temple Mount, which Muslims claim as only its third holiest site but where Muslims nonetheless have asserted priority status. For decades, Israelis have been allowed to visit the site, but not to worship there. Ben-Gvir was there for less than 15 minutes, and he did not pray, although he and his allies long and quite reasonably have said Jews have every right to pray there, too. Less than six years ago, by the way, then-National Security Minister Gilad Erdan visited the Temple Mount without major incident.

The Biden administration, though, is reflexively pro-Palestinian and openly hostile to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Its representatives quickly worked themselves into a lather. Rather than tamping down tensions by calmly saying that a mere visit to the Temple Mount is nothing extraordinary, it adopted the Palestinian line that it was a massive provocation. In doing so, it ratifies, rather than deters, overreactions to what should be a total non-issue.

Both U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides and State Department spokesman Ned Price used the word “unacceptable” to describe the visit, and Price specifically said, “this visit has the potential of exacerbating tensions and lead to violence.”

Does Price not understand that by characterizing the visit as an invitation to violence, he gives succor to those who want to use it in just that way? The recklessness is by Price, not by Ben-Gvir.

Sen. Cruz was justifiably outraged.

“The Biden administration’s pathological obsession with undermining Israel is endangering the national security of America and our allies,” Cruz said. “A visit by a minister from Israel’s government to a site inside Israel is not a change in any status quo arrangement, and it should not be controversial for a Jew to visit the holiest site in Judaism.”

Furthermore: “The statements from the Biden White House and State Department, which suggest otherwise, will further destabilize the Middle East and risk inciting terrorism. They convince Palestinian officials that compromise is unnecessary because Democrat administrations will coerce our Israeli allies into making dangerous concessions.”

Appropriately, Cruz provided context by listing numerous other ways the Biden team has acted in ways remarkably anti-Zionist. For example, the administration “prohibited even mentioning the ‘Abraham Accords,’ sought to open a Palestinian consulate in Israel’s capital Jerusalem, unleashed the FBI against the Israeli army, and publicly ostracized parts of Israel’s democratically-elected government … [and has brought] officials from the terrorist Palestine Liberation Organization to Washington, D.C.”

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Cruz is correct in describing Biden’s antipathy to traditionalist Israelis as “pathological.” In the case of the Temple Mount, it also is ahistorical. Jews were worshipping there for nearly 1,600 years before Muslims say Muhammad visited there in his “Night Journey.” A truth-telling U.S. administration dedicated to fairness would insist that every human being has a right to peacefully visit the location and would try to persuade Muslims that everybody, especially including descendants of the Jews who worshipped there first, should be allowed to pray there, too.

Kowtowing to Islamic demands merely encourages Islamist violence. The Biden administration, not Netanyahu’s, is the one acting unacceptably.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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