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Ben-Gvir's Visit to Jerusalem's Temple Mount Sparks Worldwide Debate

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JERUSALEM, Israel  – After a week in office, Israel's new government is already facing international criticism. Incoming National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir created an uproar by visiting Jerusalem's Temple Mount. The location is an international point of contention as it's home to Islam's Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, as well as being Judaism's holiest site.

Ben-Gvir's surprise trip is the first by an Israeli minister in almost five years.

The Biden administration isn't happy with the visit. State Department spokesman Ned Price said, "The United States stands firmly for preservation of the historic status quo with respect to the holy sites in Jerusalem. We oppose any unilateral actions that undercut the historic status quo. They are unacceptable."

Ben-Gvir maintains his visit did not violate the status quo. While Israel's High Court guarantees freedom of access to the holy plateau, including freedom of worship, Israeli police prevent anyone other than Muslims from praying there out of fear of disturbances.

During his visit to the site on Tuesday, Ben-Gvir announced, 'The Temple Mount is open to all. Muslims and Christians come up here, and yes, also Jews. In a government I'm a member of, there will be no discrimination, and Jews will come up (and visit) the Temple Mount. We make it clear to Hamas that we aren't surrendering, we aren't capitulating, we aren't flinching."

Palestinians threatened retaliation that resulted in one rocket launched toward southern Israel. It fell in an open area, and there was no response from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh warned, "The Israeli Minister Ben-Gvir's storming of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque this morning constitutes a serious challenge to the emotions of all our Palestinian people."

A spokesman for the terror group Hamas, Hazem Qassem, went further: "This provocative behavior by the right-wing government will open the door wide for real waves of escalation, all of which will have repercussions for the entire region."

A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office confirmed that Israel is committed to maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount. It read, in part,

"We will not be dictated to by Hamas. Under the status quo, ministers have gone up to the Temple Mount in recent years, including (former) Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan; therefore, the claim that a change has been made in the status quo is without foundation."

Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Ted Cruz (R-TX) signaled Wednesday that the Biden administration could have a fight on its hands in the debate over the Temple Mount on Capitol Hill. Cruz sharply criticized the administration's warnings to Israel, saying it has a "pathological obsession with undermining Israel."

Cruz insisted that a visit to the site by an Israeli minister is not a violation of the status quo, and that it should not be controversial for a Jew to visit the holiest site in Judaism.

He added, “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.”

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About The Author

Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl is a correspondent for CBN News in the Middle East. A Hebrew speaker, she has been covering news in Israel fulltime for more than 20 years. Julie’s life as a journalist has been intertwined with CBN – first as a graduate student in Journalism; then as a journalist with Middle East Television (METV) when it was owned by CBN from 1989-91; and now with the Middle East Bureau of CBN News in Jerusalem since 2009. As a correspondent for CBN News, Julie has covered Israel’s wars with Gaza, rocket attacks on Israeli communities, stories on the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and