Netanyahu: Probe Israeli Arab MK’s call to keep Jews off Temple Mount for incitement
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday called for an examination into whether comments made this week by Israeli Arab MK Jamal Zahalka (Joint List) about keeping Jews off the Temple Mount constitute incitement.
The premier requested that Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit oversee the probe.
Following Netanyahu’s call, Zahalka shot back at the prime minister saying his call was “baseless.”
“Netanyahu is attempting to garner cheap popularity through incitement against the Arab sector and its leaders,” Zahalka charged.
“I have the right to express my opinion,” the Joint List MK said, adding that “Jews and Arabs have said the same thing. One can disagree with them, but Netanyahu has just turned to shutting the mouths of Arabs. I have one reply: We won’t we silenced.”
On Thursday, MKs on the Right and Left called for action against Zahalka, after he said Jews must be kept off the Temple Mount “in any way possible” and called to intensify the violence of recent months.
Zahalka, in an interview for the Palestinian website Dunya al-Watan, called on Palestinians to enlist in efforts to stop what he said was a daily increase in Jewish visitors to the holy site.
“We sacrificed 4,000 martyrs for the Aksa Mosque in the second intifada, and the continued ascent of Jews to the Temple Mount caused the outbreak of the current intifada,” he said.
“Our people have the right to the mosque, and we must protect it with all of our power. The Palestinian nation is the guardian of the mosque.”
Zahalka made a call for more organized, wide-spread Palestinian violence, saying: “The question is whether organizations will join the national struggle and operate on behalf of the entire homeland, or will they leave the struggle in the hands of youth who carry out lone terrorist attacks.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prohibited all MKs from visiting the site last year, and the only ones to defy him since then have been members of the Joint List.
Zahalka is one of three Joint List MKs who are in the Balad party. The Knesset Ethics Committee suspended him and the other lawmakers, Haneen Zoabi and Basel Ghattas, for varying amounts of time from all Knesset activities except voting, after they visited in Jerusalem with families of dead Arab terrorists and stood in a moment of silence for the “martyrs.”
Lawmakers from the Left and Right expressed outrage at Zahalka’s statement, questioning whether his two-month suspension was a serious enough punishment.
“First he incites, then he gets a ridiculous punishment… and now he’s inciting again,” MK Nava Boker (Likud) lamented.
“Maybe the Ethics Committee and police should understand that we’re dealing with a person who wants to see Jewish blood spilling like water ahead of Passover.”
Boker called to remove Zahalka’s parliamentary immunity and for there to be a criminal investigation against him.
MK Itzik Shmuly (Zionist Union) said Zahalka’s “advice to continue the intifada in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem does not leave any doubt about his interests.
“An MK who encourages incitement and violence and does PR for dangerous actions against the state is someone who cannot be ignored. This must be put to an end, once and for all,” he said.
Knesset Law, Constitution and Justice Committee chairman Nissan Slomiansky (Bayit Yehudi) said “Zahalka should realize what country he lives in and who is the sovereign, and we, in the spirit of [Passover], should remember that we came here in order to stay forever.”
Likud MK Amir Ohana called Zahalka an “ultranationalist and racist,” saying that “he has no problem taking away Jews’ freedom of worship… Just replace the word ‘Jews’ with ‘Arabs’ and you’ll find that Zahalka is king of the hypocrites.”
MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) suggested that Zahalka leave the Temple Mount alone if he wants to avoid bloodshed.
“The time has come for MK Zahalka to lay off the Temple Mount. It’s a holy place. Instead of instigating, he should try to bring calm. Politicians must not use the Temple Mount as a tool,” he said.