Ultra-Orthodox Jewish figures denounce illegal settler turned minister Itamar Ben-Gvir's storming of Al Aqsa Mosque compound, with one lawmaker accusing him of "goading the entire world."

When Ben-Gvir stormed the site he described it as
When Ben-Gvir stormed the site he described it as "the most important place for the Jewish people" and said such visits would continue. (Temple Mount Administration via AFP)

Leading ultra-Orthodox Jewish figures supporting Israel's coalition government have criticised a visit by a far-right National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, to a flashpoint holy site in occupied East Jerusalem, adding internal religious dissent to a cascade of foreign censure.

One lawmaker accused Ben-Gvir on Wednesday of "goading the entire world".

"It is forbidden to go up to the place of the Holy of Holies," senior United Torah Judaism lawmaker Moshe Gafni said in parliament, referring to a part of Jewish temples that stood at the site in ancient times and was off-limits to most people.

Gafni said he had advised Ben-Gvir of this.

"Besides the aspect of religious law, there is nothing to be gained from just goading the entire world," he said.

Alongside United Torah Judaism in the government Netanyahu swore in last week is Shas, an ultra-Orthodox party that draws support from Sephardi Jews of Middle Eastern descent.

The office of Israel's Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said he had sent Ben-Gvir what it called a "protest letter ... urging the minister not to go up to the Temple Mount again".

"Even if claimed that a rabbinical minority has personally permitted you to do this, it is clear that as a minister in the government of Israel you must not take action against the instructions of the Chief Rabbinate dating back generations," said the letter, seen by the Reuters news agency.

Ben-Gvir's storming of the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, stirred protests from across the Arab world and Western concern about long-standing understandings of non-Muslim access.

READ MORE: Why Israel’s Ben-Gvir move to enter Al Aqsa is seen as ‘provocative’

Anathema to politically neutral Jews

Al Aqsa Mosque lies in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem and is the third-holiest site in Islam.

For Palestine, East Jerusalem is an occupied heartland of the Arab country. 

Israel calls all of Jerusalem its indivisible capital — a status not recognised internationally. 

The decades-old status quo allows only Muslim worship at the compound, a site also revered by Jews, who call it the Temple Mount. Non-Muslims can visit the complex when Muslims are not praying, but they are not allowed to pray there under the status quo.

In recent years, a growing number of Jews, most of them Israeli nationalists and illegal settlers, have covertly prayed at the compound, a development decried by Palestinians.

When Ben-Gvir stormed the site on Tuesday he described it as "the most important place for the Jewish people" and said such visits would continue.

He has previously called for ending the status quo and his mere presence at the compound was thus anathema to more stringently pious and politically neutral Jews.

READ MORE: Israel gets UNSC flak after firebrand minister storms Al Aqsa compound

READ MORE: Who is Itamar Ben Gvir, the settler leader whipping up Jerusalem tensions?

Source: Reuters