Israel lawmaker defies Netanyahu with provocative Al-Aqsa visit

Mounting tensions

An Israeli far-right lawmaker visited the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound in east Jerusalem on Sunday, defying calls for restraint from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
MP Moshe Feiglin was met with protests from Muslims crying "Allahu akbar!" (God is greater) when he visited the Old City site, a photographer said.
The hardline member of Netanyahu's rightwing Likud bloc is a leading advocate of the right of Jews to pray on the compound.
Longstanding practice at the compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, allows visits by other faiths but limits prayer to Muslims.
Netanyahu, who has repeatedly said he has no intention of changing the status quo, on Saturday urged the far right to act "responsibly" in the face of mounting tensions and almost daily clashes in Jerusalem.
But he also told his cabinet on Sunday that Islamic groups were using claims of plans to change the rules at the compound to stir up anti-Israeli sentiment.
"They are disseminating lies to the effect that we intend to destroy or harm the Al-Aqsa mosque and that we intend to prevent Muslims from praying there," his office quoted him as saying.
"They are using verbal and physical violence in an effort to exclude Jews from going up to the Temple Mount," Netanyahu said.
"We will not allow this to happen; neither will we alter the worship arrangements and the access to the Temple Mount that has been customary for decades. We are committed to the status quo for Jews, Muslims and Christians."
Jordan's King Abdullah II on Sunday joined those warning against any attempts to change the status of the Jerusalem holy sites.
"Jordan will continue to confront, through all available means, Israeli unilateral policies and measures in Jerusalem and preserve its Muslim and Christian holy sites, until peace is restored to the land of peace," the king said in a speech.
Jordan, which administered east Jerusalem and the West Bank before Israel seized the Palestinian territories in the 1967 Middle East war, has responsibility for holy sites in the Israeli-annexed eastern sector.
The Arab League also said Sunday that Israel had reached a "red line", with deputy chief Ahmed Ben Hilli warning: "Touching Jerusalem will lead to results with untold consequences."
Israel on Thursday ordered a rare closure of the compound as Palestinian youths clashed with police after officers shot dead a Palestinian suspected of trying to murder a hardline Israeli rabbi.
It was reopened the following day under heavy security and Friday prayers passed without incident.
On Sunday, male Muslim worshippers were only admitted if above the age of 40, a police source and witnesses said. Women were not subject to restrictions.
The cabinet meanwhile approved harsh new measures to try to fight months of Palestinian protest in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, setting a maximum 20-year jail term for throwing stones at motorists or public transport.
The amendment, which still needs parliamentary approval, does not specify that it is directed at Palestinians but a justice ministry background document said the change was in response to "the security situation in east Jerusalem".
In clashes with Israeli police across east Jerusalem on Saturday night and early Sunday, police arrested 17 Palestinian protesters, police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.
Another police source said that around 900 Palestinians had been arrested in the city since July and nearly 300 charged.
Jerusalem has been rocked by almost constant unrest since the murder of a Palestinian teenager in July in revenge for the killings of three Jewish teenagers in the West Bank.
A 50-day war between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza in July and August intensified protests and clashes in the Holy City.