Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely took a pounding Tuesday from opposition MKs, in addition to words of displeasure from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for her comments about dreaming of seeing an Israeli flag over the Temple Mount.
Late Monday night, after Hotovely’s comments were aired from an an interview on the Knesset Channel, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying that “the policy of the Government of Israel regarding the Temple Mount was expressed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his statement Saturday night, and nothing has changed. Prime Minister Netanyahu made it clear that he expects all members of the Government to act accordingly.”
In his Saturday night statement, Netanyahu reaffirmed Israel’s “commitment to upholding unchanged the status quo of the Temple Mount, in word and in practice,” and said that Israel “has no intention to divide the Temple Mount, and we completely reject any attempt to suggest otherwise.”
The prime minister also said that “Israel will continue to enforce its longstanding policy: Muslims pray on the Temple Mount; non-Muslims visit the Temple Mount.”
Netanyahu has been saying to the world for months that Israel has no intention of changing the status quo at the site, and has in the past repeatedly asked his ministers to refrain from making pronouncements about the issue.
But Hotovely, in her interview on Monday, said that the Temple Mount was the “center of Israeli sovereignty, the capital of Israel, the holiest place for the Jewish people,” and that “it’s my dream to see the Israeli flag flying on the Temple Mount.”
She also repeated her position that Jews should be allowed to pray there.
After Netanyahu released his statement, Hotovely issued a clarification, saying that her “personal opinion is not the policy of the government,” adding that she was “bound to the policies” on the issue expressed by Netanyahu Saturday night.
She also cancelled a previously scheduled briefing Wednesday for the foreign press at the Jerusalem Press Club.
Zionist Union Camp Tzip Livni said Tuesday that when all the “personal opinions of the cabinet members are added up, it turns out that the personal opinion represented by the prime minister is in the minority. With all the personal opinions we have a government without a position on the most important issue for our lives here,” she said.
Livni’s Zionist Union colleague Yoel Hasson called for Hotovely’s immediate dismissal, writing on his Facebook page that “with the stubbornness of a donkey, the messianic deputy minister continues to incite the entire Middle East.
“Every few months,” he wrote, “she repeats her call to have the Israeli flag flying over the Temple Mount, as if the situation here was not volatile enough. Hotovely is the poster child for lack of responsibility. She should be dismissed immediately and distanced from the government for the good of Israel’s security.”