As rioting in Arab neighborhoods of the capital continued, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah visited the Temple Mount on Monday, where he declared that east Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Palestinian state.
“Jerusalem is a redline, and so is the Aksa Mosque,” Hamdallah told reporters. “We will go to all international institutions and Islamic and Arab countries to request that they stand against Israeli violations in Jerusalem.”
During the visit, which was coordinated with Israeli authorities, Hamdallah was accompanied by PA General Intelligence Service head Majed Faraj and Preventive Security Service commander Ziad Hab al-Reeh.
They also paid a brief visit to the nearby St. Anne’s Church in the Muslim Quarter, the traditional site of the home of Jesus’s maternal grandparents.
Hamdallah accused Israel of working toward Judaizing Jerusalem and the Aksa Mosque.
“We came here to say that Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state and an important part of the national program,” he said.
“Occupation is illegal and illegitimate. All Israeli measures and the settlements are illegal.”
Hamdallah pledged that his government would help the Arab residents of Jerusalem, financially and morally.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that while there were numerous sporadic instances in the Isawiya and Silwan neighborhoods of Arabs throwing rocks at officers, there was no violence on the Temple Mount during the visit.
“The only incidents today were in pinpointed areas that police were prepared for and responded to quickly to disperse stone-throwing rioters,” he said, noting that there were no arrests or injuries.
“Palestinian officials visit the Temple Mount on a regular basis and there were no incidents whatsoever,” Rosenfeld said.
Also on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused PA President Mahmoud Abbas of joining with Islamic extremists and inciting against Israel with tales that it planned to change the status quo on the Temple Mount.
Netanyahu leveled the charge directly during yet another consultation he held in his office dealing with the escalating tensions in Jerusalem. And he did so indirectly during his speech to the opening meeting of the Knesset’s winter session.
Without referring to the Palestinian leader by name, the prime minister said Abbas’s recent charge that Israel was committing genocide, and his call on Palestinians to prevent Jews from “desecrating the Temple Mount,” “encourage the escalation we see in Jerusalem. And against that escalation we will take action until we restore the quiet.”
Netanyahu stressed that Israel had no intention of altering the status quo on the Temple Mount or regarding any of the holy sites in the capital, echoing comments he made earlier in the day during his consultations on Jerusalem.
During the meeting, he issued directives to speedily move forward legislation to significantly stiffen penalties against rock-throwers.
A representative of the state attorney said directives had already been issued to carry out arrests and toughen punishment of rock-throwers, including in specific cases fining parents of minors who commit such offenses.
Among those who participated in the meeting were Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) head Yoram Cohen.
“We are providing Jerusalem with all the necessary support,” Aharonovitch said. “The capital has always been and will likely always remain in the eye of the storm.”
In the meeting, Barkat, who publicly took Aharonovitch to task earlier this month for not doing enough to protect the city, presented an outline to “restore the rule of law in east Jerusalem.”
“The outline presented today will give police forces the means to deal with rioters and restore peace to the capital,” he said.
Barkat’s proposals included deploying police forces regularly in neighborhoods where there are disturbances; developing “innovative technological means” to warn against and deter violence, including observation balloons and aerial drones; increasing fines for the parents of rioting minors; and improving east Jerusalem’s infrastructure, including its roads and schools.
“Today it is clearer than ever that we must put police forces into Arab neighborhoods where there are disturbances, place control points in them, increase the use of technology to heighten intelligence, and increase punishment for those who violate the law,” the mayor said.
In the meantime, Barkat said that Jerusalem is maintaining normal routine, which he insisted must not be disturbed.
In apparent criticism of Tel Aviv’s Board of Education, which dropped a major annual school trip to the capital this week, the mayor added that “canceling visits to Jerusalem plays into the hands of those causing the disturbance.”
“I urge everyone to go and visit Jerusalem and to strengthen it to help calm return to the city,” Barkat said. “We are working together with the police so we can to restore peace to the city and I will continue to be vigilant and not rest until security is returned to Jerusalem.”