Two GOP Reps questioned by Israeli police during visit to holy site: report

Two GOP Reps questioned by Israeli police during visit to holy site: report
© Greg Nash

Two Republican lawmakers were briefly questioned by Israeli police during a recent Jerusalem visit, the Times of Israel reported. 

Rep. David McKinleyDavid Bennett McKinleyBipartisan former EPA chiefs say Trump administration has abandoned agency's mission Thirty-four GOP members buck Trump on disaster bill Divisions emerge over House drug price bills MORE (R-W.Va.) and Rep. Scott TiptonScott R. TiptonHouse Dems unveil initial GOP targets in 2020 When it comes to drone tech, wildfire officials need the rights tools for the job Americans want to protect public lands, Congress should listen MORE (R-Colo.) were reportedly stopped after taking a branch from an olive tree at the Temple Mount holy site.

The Waqf, the Jordanian group that governs the area, alerted police that McKinley had picked up the branch. The Waqf prohibits taking anything from the site. 

“The issue was quickly clarified and the congressmen continued their visit according to plan,” police said in a statement to the Times of Israel. “They were not detained or arrested.”

Alec Thomas, a spokesman for McKinley, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail that the group was questioned for about 10 minutes.


Thomas said that McKinley’s action of picking up the branch was misread by authorities as a form of prayer, which is barred from the area.

“It is ironic as the olive branch is a sign of peace, and those of a different faith than Islam are made to feel unwelcome at Temple Mount,” Thomas said. “The Temple Mount should be open to all to peaceably worship, free of limitations.”

According to the Times of Israel, Jews are allowed to visit the site but are not allowed to participate in religious worship or prayer. The Temple Mount, home to the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque, is considered one of the holiest sites to both Jews and Muslims.

A spokeswoman for Tipton said the branch was "eventually dropped along the way."

The congressmen were visiting Jerusalem to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to discuss U.S.-Israeli relations, according to the Gazette-Mail.