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Visit by far-right Israeli minister Itamar Ben-Gvir to Al-Aqsa sparks outrage: NPR

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Itamar Ben-Gvir, the national security minister of Israel’s new government, attends Tuesday’s weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

Atef Safadi/AP


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Atef Safadi/AP


Itamar Ben-Gvir, the national security minister of Israel’s new government, attends Tuesday’s weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

Atef Safadi/AP

TEL AVIV, Israel – Israel is lobbying against calls to hold an urgent session of the United Nations Security Council, following a controversial visit by Israel’s far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir to a holy site in Jerusalem.

On Tuesday, just days after Israel’s new ultranationalist government took office, Ben-Gvir visited the hilltop complex that houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The site is revered in Islam as the Noble Sanctuary where Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven, but in Judaism it is called the Temple Mount because it was the site of the biblical Temples.

Ben-Gvir, previously convicted in an Israeli court of ties to a racist anti-Arab organization, has long called for expanded access and rights for Hilltop Jews. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended Ben-Gvir’s visit, saying there would be no change in the status quo of the holy site. Arab countries and the US have warned that any unilateral changes to the way the religious site is run could trigger violence.

The United Arab Emirates, a key Israeli ally, says it is pressing, with China’s backing, for the UN Security Council to discuss the situation. The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said it had urged the UAE to request the meeting, which is due to take place on Thursday.


Israeli police guard the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City on Tuesday.

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Maya Alleruzzo/AP

An Israeli diplomatic official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal communications, told NPR that Israel’s Foreign Ministry has instructed Israeli embassies to lobby countries against any measures the Security Council may take. Israeli news website Walla News first reported on Israeli efforts to block the proposed UN meeting.

The UAE was one of the first Arab countries to criticize Ben-Gvir’s visit to the complex and has maintained links with Turkey and Jordan over the matter. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and Bahrain all criticized the visit, with most of them calling it “provocative”.

But the UAE’s direct criticisms are particularly noteworthy given Israel’s warm public acceptance. The two countries, then under Netanyahu and President Donald Trump, opened diplomatic relations in 2020, and last month, the UAE’s ambassador to Israel hosted Ben-Gvir at an Emirati National Day celebration.

Elham Fakhro, a Bahrain researcher at the University of Exeter, says public opinion in the Gulf is largely opposed to Israeli actions against Palestinians and is skeptical that formal ties with Arab states can change Israel’s policies.

“I think what is happening now is that there has been a maturation of the relationship between the two sides. I think that the Emirates are more confident in their relationship with Israel,” says Fakhro, author of a book to be published on the agreements mediated by the United States who formalized the ties. between Israel and the Gulf Arab states of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in 2020.

“They are trying to use their influence,” she says of the UAE. “Whether or not Netanyahu will be a willing partner in this is a different matter.”

Ben-Gvir’s visit to the holy site has also drawn criticism within Israel from those opposed to the country’s new ultranationalist government.

“It’s outrageous. It’s totally intolerable,” former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told NPR. “I fully understand the reaction of the international community.”

Aya Batrawy from NPR contributed to this Dubai story.

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