Amid Palestinian calls for a “day of rage” in Jerusalem following Friday prayers, police have preemptively deployed some 800 extra officers to patrol the Old City and Arab neighborhoods throughout the capital, and will bar Muslim men under the age of 40 from ascending the Temple Mount.
The call for violence follows several days of rioting on the Temple Mount after Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon banned the Islamist extremist groups Murabitun and Murabatat from the compound for their constant intimidation of and violence against Jewish visitors.
Following Ya’alon’s order, the PLO Executive Committee held an emergency meeting in Ramallah and called for “confronting Israeli terror schemes” against Islamic holy sites, while Hamas said that the government’s move was tantamount to a “declaration of war.”
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said on Thursday that security assessments have been made throughout the week, resulting in the hundreds of extra special patrol, Border Police, and undercover units assigned to protect the capital.
“We can see there are calls from extremists to try to incite riots in Jerusalem, and we will be implementing security measures in different areas to prevent any major incidents from taking place,” said Rosenfeld.
He added that many of the reinforcements will be stationed in and around the Old City to respond to possible rioting on the Temple Mount after Friday prayers conclude, as well as in flashpoint Arab neighborhoods in the capital.
“All police units will continue to make security assessments and respond immediately to any incidents throughout Jerusalem, if necessary,” he said.
On Thursday the Palestinian Authority again rejected Israel’s new measures on the Temple Mount, claiming the Israeli government is seeking to create new facts on the ground in Jerusalem.
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for the PA president’s office in Ramallah, said that the “ongoing Israeli onslaught against the occupied city of Jerusalem, especially the Aksa Mosque, was aimed at creating a new and dangerous reality.”
He said that Arabs in general, and Palestinians in particular, condemn the recent Israeli measures that followed days of rioting at the Temple Mount and in parts of east Jerusalem.
The PA Ministry of Information accused the Israeli government of “declaring war” on the Palestinians and their holy sites.
The ministry also accused the Israeli government of “incitement” against Arab residents of Jerusalem. It claimed that Israel was proceeding with its “terrorism” and purported scheme to divide the Temple Mount compound and rebuild the Temple.
Meanwhile, following Alexander Levlovitz’s death on Monday in Jerusalem after his car was stoned causing him to crash and die while driving home with his two daughters after celebrating Rosh Hashana, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said he was “declaring war” against rock throwers.
While Barkat has proposed markedly harsher punishments for rock-throwers and enhanced security throughout the capital, former east Jerusalem portfolio head and Meretz councilman Dr. Meir Margalit said on Thursday that heavy-handed policing would only exacerbate the crisis.
Indeed, according to Margalit, aggressive policing is “part of the problem, not the solution.”
“You have to understand that in the last year the police have been so aggressive that a lot of anger has accumulated in the streets of east Jerusalem,” he said. “And people who know what’s going on in east Jerusalem know that sooner or later it’s going to explode.”
As a result, Margalit contended that Barkat’s call for more aggressive police activity will backfire.
“Since the police continue with this attitude, the violence will just continue, and it’s going to get worse, because I cannot see anybody in the municipality or government who is ready to start a dialogue with Palestinian leaders on the ground,” he said.
Open dialogue between the municipality and Palestinian leaders in east Jerusalem, Margalit opined, is the only solution to the ongoing violence.
“There is nobody in the municipality who wants to compromise and find a fair and just settlement to the problems in east Jerusalem,” he said.
“The way the police act in east Jerusalem is part of the problem, and what’s going on there cannot be solved by force. Without dialogue this will never end.”
Moreover, Margalit asserted that the recent spike of violence in the capital is also attributable to incitement by right-wing politicians, most notably Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who controversially ascended the Temple Mount earlier in the week.
“When this person, who is an extremist right-winger, decided to go up to the Temple Mount a few days ago, then this wave of violence started,” he said of Ariel. “It was the Palestinian reaction to a provocation from the Jewish right wing.”
Margalit added that the Israeli media are culpable for not reporting much of the antagonistic right-wing activity engendered by politicians like Ariel.
“The Israeli public prefers to ignore why this violence started,” he said. “This is the Palestinian reaction to an Israeli provocation, and if you want to look for who is guilty for this violence, the guilty side is the Israeli right wing. And this is something that for some reason the Israeli newspapers and media prefer to ignore.
“What is important to understand is how this started,” Margalit continued. “It didn’t suddenly come out of nowhere.”