MK Moshe Feiglin near the Western Wall after ascending the Temple Mount..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Police officers deployed to secure the Temple Mount, which number about 100, face a bevy of threats amid the rising tension in recent months – tension fueled largely by right-wing MKs’ visits pushing for a change in the status quo, according to police assessments.
Commanders on the ground are, for the most part, powerless to prevent the MKs’ visits, in that banning a parliamentarian requires a long, complicated legal process. In the meantime, police know that every politician’s visit has the potential to inflame the situation, and is a driving inspiration for recent violence in Israel, including daily rioting and sporadic “ramming attacks” carried out by lone wolf attackers.
When it comes to the Temple Mount, police find themselves dealing with two main decisions on a daily basis – should they close the mount to Jews, ensuring their protection but also risk being seen as capitulating to rioters – a decision that has political drawbacks – or do they deploy in force to secure these visits by Jews, with the knowledge that there is a risk of inherent violence in allowing them to tour the site.
The visits by Knesset members and the politics surrounding the status quo on the Temple Mount compound the security issues faced by police, which as of late focus on three main daily threats.
First, there are what police describe as Hamas activists mainly from Jerusalem who are sent to barricade al-Aksa and clash with police, in order to change the status quo, which allows Jewish visitors on the mount.
Second, there are the “Mourabitun” and “Murbitat,” Israeli Arabs organized and paid for by the northern branch of the Islamic Movement to maintain a sort of show of force on the mount and harass Jewish visitors.
Finally, and perhaps most problematic, are the lone wolf attackers, who decide without sponsorship or warning to carry out a terror attack, inspired by their fury over the situation. These attackers are typically men that the security services have little, if any intelligence on, act independently and are highly difficult to stop before they strike.
Police are also, as of late, dealing with the relatively new phenomenon of rioters shooting fireworks directly at police. Some of these, if fired at police from five to 10 meters away, can be fatal, and easily cause severe burns, police say.
Along the way, they also have to prevent violence and make arrests, without carrying live ammunition, in order to prevent the nightmare scenario wherein police kill a Palestinian rioter on the Temple Mount.
On Sunday, rioting over the killing of a Kafr Kana man by police Friday night entered its second day. For the time being the rioting has been of small scale and confined mainly to the North, in and around Kafr Kana. All that could change, police know, if there is another deadly shooting like this one, or with the next high profile visit by an MK to the Temple Mount.