Israeli far-right minister ‘visits’ Jerusalem site in new provocative act after Europeans’ move

Israeli far-right minister ‘visits’ Jerusalem site in new provocative act after Europeans’ move


Israel’s far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, visited Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site on Wednesday in what he described as a protest against the recognition of a Palestinian state by three European countries.

It was the latest provocative act by an ultranationalist settler leader who has transformed himself over the decades from an outlaw into one of Israel’s most influential politicians, although still an extremist by any standard.

Ben-Gvir toured the contested hilltop compound that is home to the Al Aqsa Mosque to denounce a decision from Spain, Ireland and Norway to recognise a Palestinian state.

Palestinians consider the mosque a national symbol and view such visits as provocative, though Ben-Gvir has frequently visited the site, revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, during tense periods. Tensions at the disputed compound have fuelled past rounds of violence.

Ben-Gvir said he wanted to make a statement “from the holiest place for the people of Israel, which belongs only to the state of Israel.”

In his cabinet post, Ben-Gvir oversees the country’s police force. As a key coalition partner, Ben-Gvir also has the power to rob Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of his parliamentary majority and force early elections.

Ben-Gvir has used his influence to push forward pet projects and encourage Netanyahu to press ahead with the war in Gaza against widespread calls to reach a ceasefire deal that would bring home hostages.

The rise of Ben-Gvir, 48, is the culmination of years of efforts by the media-savvy lawmaker to gain legitimacy. But it also reflects a rightward shift in the Israeli electorate that brought his religious, ultranationalist ideology into the mainstream and diminished hopes for Palestinian independence.

Ben-Gvir has been convicted eight times for offences that include racism and supporting a terrorist organisation. As a teen, his views were so extreme that the army banned him from compulsory military service.

Source: The Arab Weekly


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