Muslims pray at Temple Mount.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Status on the Temple Mount will be maintained, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Sunday as he clarified that Muslims worshipers could continue to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and that Israel had no plans to harm or destroy it.
He accused Islamic fundamentalist of spreading false stories about Israeli actions on the Temple Mount by way of igniting religious violence.
“We will certainly oppose all systematic and continuing attempts by Islamic extremist elements to stir up unrest. They would like to set a religious fire in Jerusalem and thereby ignite the entire Middle East. The place they are most determined on is the Temple Mount,” Netanyahu said during the weekly cabinet meeting.
“They are disseminating lies to the effect that we intend to destroy or harm the Al-Aqsa Mosque and that we intend to prevent Muslim from praying there,” Netanyahu said.
“They are using verbal and physical violence in an effort to exclude Jews from going up to the Temple Mount. 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,” Netanyahu said.
“It is easy to start a religious fire, but much more difficult to extinguish it. These messages have been passed along as clearly as possible to [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] Abu Mazen, as well as to all elements in the area and among us,” Netanyahu said.
“We are committed to the status quo for Jews, Muslims and Christians,” he added.
In the last two days, he said, he has spoken with many people, including US Secretary of State John Kerry, in an effort to calm the violence which began on Wednesday night with the attempted assassination attempt on right wing activist Yehuda Glick who was shot in stomach and the chest.
In response the police closed the Temple Mount on Thursday to Muslim worshippers and Jewish visitors. It opened the site up on Friday to Muslim worshippers over 50.
By Sunday the situation had returned to normal with Muslim worshippers and Jewish visitors allowed.
But right wing activists have used Glick’s assassination to renew their call for Jews to be allowed to pray on the Temple Mount, which they are now prohibited from doing.
Netanyahu told the cabinet he did not plan to authorize that change and called on the politicians to restrain themselves and not to act in an inciting manner.
“To my ministerial colleagues, these are especially sensitive times. Let us not play into the hands of our extremist enemies. I think that what is necessary now is to show restraint and to work together to calm the situation. I ask that you join me in the effort to maintain the existing order, let nobody harm it, certainly not our right to go up to the Temple Mount, but we will not change the arrangements. I also ask that private initiatives be avoided as well as unbridled statements. At this time we must show responsibility and restraint,” Netanyahu said.
To ensure that order is maintained in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said he had ordered police reinforcements to the capital. He thanked the police for their efforts and sent his wishes to Glick for a speedy recovery.
“I spoke with his wife and his father and I told them that along with the entire Jewish people, I am praying for Yehuda's recovery. I am certain that I speak for all ministers and very many of the Israeli people in this regard,” Netanyahu said.