Likud MK Miri Regev.
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
The police have proved to be incapable of protecting and treating fairly Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount, Knesset Interior Committee chairwoman Miri Regev lamented Monday.
Regev called a committee meeting after receiving several complaints from citizens who ascended the Mount and felt unsafe. Some attended the meeting and showed videos of their visit.
“When only Jews are not allowed on the Mount because of rioting [by Arabs], the Muslims are getting exactly what they want,” Regev said. “In a civilized country, whoever breaks the law doesn’t get a prize.”
A subcommittee on the issue, led by MK David Tsur (Hatnua), determined that when there is rioting, the holy site should be closed to everyone, Regev stated.
“There cannot be a legal situation in the State of Israel in which order cannot be brought to the Temple Mount and the number of Jewish visitors is determined by the number of Muslim rioters.
The police failed in their duties, and that is a fact,” Regev said.
“If Muslims feel that they can burn down a police station on the Temple Mount and that we won’t do anything about it, that shows the police are incompetent,” she added, referring to an incident on Ramadan’s Laylat al-Qadr, which Muslims believe is the night the first verses of the Koran were revealed to Muhammad.
Videos posted online during the July 24 holiday showed Arab rioters looting the police station and burning its contents.
Rioters also replaced the Israeli flag atop the police station with a Palestinian flag.
Police subsequently said they leave the station empty on the Muslim holiday as part of an agreement with the Wakf Muslim religious trust, which manages the site.
Responded to Regev’s accusations, Cmdr. Avi Biton said that human life comes before everything, including a religious symbol, and that while police policy is to allow Jews on the Temple Mount, if it will put their lives in danger, police will stop them.
“Dozens of suspected Muslim rioters were arrested after the [police station] was burned on the Temple Mount and the investigation is not yet over,” he said.
Tsur asked: “You’ve arrested many people, but can you say that is a deterrent? I’m not sure.”
According to Biton, the police, too, are concerned about the violence on the Temple Mount, led and funded by an organization called Yamr al-Aksa, which was declared an unlawful association last month. Police raided its offices and stopped the flow of funds to it.
“The rioters aren’t showing up for free; they’re being paid,” Biton explained.
Tsur pointed out that in recent years many more Jews are visiting the Temple Mount than in the past and said his subcommittee has recommendations for how police can deal with it, but that the police are ignoring them.
MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) said the police’s strategic understanding is mistaken, and they should use as much force as possible to protect “the symbol of Israeli sovereignty.”
“The result of what is happening on the Temple Mount is that at this very moment, there is a murderous intifada in Jerusalem. Practically giving sovereignty over the Temple Mount to radical Islam is not a lone incident. It is a message that reverberates throughout the land,” Feiglin stated.
The Likud MK called to hold separate prayer hours for Jews and Muslims, and if the latter complain, they should realize they brought this upon themselves.
In addition, Feiglin said the state comptroller should write a report about the situation on the Temple Mount, and Regev said she will request that he do so.
Regev also plans to invite the chief of police and public security minister to tell the committee how it is implementing Tsur’s report on the Temple Mount.
“If the police had a clear policy, we wouldn’t have reached this situation,” Regev said, closing the meeting. “You’re there because it’s a sensitive site. Therefore, we expect you to do more.”