JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu restated his government’s commitment to the status quo on the Temple Mount after a government minister said it was her dream to see an Israeli flag fly on the site.
“I think it’s the centre of Israeli sovereignty, the capital of Israel, the holiest place for the Jewish people,” Likud party Knesset member Tzipi Hotovely, also the deputy foreign minister, said in an interview aired Monday on the Knesset channel. “It’s my dream to see the Israeli flag flying on the Temple Mount.”
In response, the Prime Minister’s Office released a statement on Monday night.
“The policy of the Government of Israel regarding the Temple Mount was expressed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his statement Saturday night, and nothing has changed,” the statement said. “Prime Minister Netanyahu made it clear that he expects all members of the Government to act accordingly.”
Netanyahu in his statement on Saturday night said that “Israel will continue to enforce its longstanding policy: Muslims pray on the Temple Mount; non-Muslims visit the Temple Mount. As we have said many times, Israel has no intention to divide the Temple Mount, and we completely reject any attempt to suggest otherwise.”
Hotovely issued a statement as well, saying: “My personal opinions are not the government’s policy, and I am certainly bound by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policy as stated on Saturday evening in which he declared that there would be no change in the status quo at the Temple Mount.”
Opposition members of the Knesset called for her dismissal.
Hotovely has made public visits to the Temple Mount, including the day before her wedding, and opposes the creation of a Palestinian state.
Deadly Palestinian attacks on Jewish-Israelis have sharply increased in recent weeks amid tensions over the Temple Mount, which is holy to Jews and Muslims. Driving the tensions in part have been reports among the Palestinians that Israel is planning to alter the site, which houses the Al-Aqsa mosque compound. Palestinian Authority President Abbas himself has made the charge, which Netanyahu has continued to vehemently deny.