Right wing leader Naftali Bennett reportedly told American Jewish leaders Monday that Israel wants more control over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, a holy site that has long been a contentious point with the Muslim world.
Bennett, who is a key player in Benjamin Netanyahu’s shaky coalition government, told the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations that his goal is to exercise greater Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem would “ultimately influence the eastern side of Jerusalem, and that will include the Temple Mount,” Haaretz reported.
While acknowledging the “sensitivity” of the site, Bennett said Jews need to have more access to the holy site — and suggested that would come with more Israeli control.
“Unfortunately, the Temple Mount today doesn’t allow for the full exercise of freedom of religion, and there is discrimination against Jews there,” he said. “But we have to be very careful when dealing with the Temple Mount because of the huge sensitivity of the site.”
The Old City site is now run by a Muslim organization called the waqf. Israel seized the Temple Mount and the rest of East Jerusalem during the 1967 war and has since annexed it.
The rest of the world does not recognize the legitimacy of the Israeli action and Palestinians plan to establish the capital of a future state in East Jersualem.
Bennett rejects any compromise with the Palestinians on Jerusalem and says the holy city’s problems would be solved by “gradually increasing the exercise of law in all of Jerusalem.” H
The right wing leader insisted Jewish West Bank settlements weren’t undermining U.S. efforts to strike a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, calling the ongoing 47-year occupation a “land dispute.”
“There’s a land dispute, that’s no secret, but it’s no occupation because you can’t occupy your own home,” he said, according to the paper. “The Palestinians living in Judaea and Samaria aren’t going anywhere, and the Jews aren’t going anywhere.”
Despite his sharp differences, Bennett defended peace mediator John Kerry against charges of anti-Semitism.
“America’s our friend, our biggest friend, but we can agree not to agree,” he said.