Jerusalem's Old City and the Temple Mount.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
A day after he returned from a two-month suspension from the Knesset, Israeli Arab MK Jamal Zahalka (Joint List) made a call to the Palestinians to prevent Jews from visiting the Temple Mount complex "in any way possible."
"In light of the daily increase of (Jewish) ascent to the Aksa Mosque, it is up to us to stop it in any way possible," he told the Palestinian site Dunya al-Watan on Wednesday, ahead of next week's Passover holiday in which Jews flock to Jerusalem's holy sites.
In his remarks, Zahalka, who leads the Balad party in the four-party Joint List alliance, said "the Palestinian people paid the price of 4,000 deaths in the second intifada in the year 2000."
"Our people have the right to the mosque, and we must protect it with all of our power. The Palestinian nation is the guardian of the mosque," he said in the interview published Thursday.
Zahalka charged that the continuation of the alleged uptick of Jewish visits to the site would ignite the next collective Palestinian uprising against Israel.
He added that "the increase in Jews who go up will cause the third intifada to break out and continue throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem depending on which Palestinian organizations join in the fighting."
The Israeli Arab lawmaker then appeared to make a veiled call for a more organized, wide-spread Palestinian retaliation against the Jewish state, saying: "The question is whether the organizations will join the national struggle and operate on behalf of the entire homeland, or will they leave the struggle in the hands of youth who carry out lone terrorist attacks."
"Israel continues its 100-year-old colonial Zionist project," he charged, adding that Israel "is not acting like a country but rather as Zionist settlement organizations that try to besiege the Arabs, expropriating their land and denying them their livelihood."
Ahead of the Passover holiday beginning on April 22, Israel has reassured Jordan and the Palestinian Authority that it is committed to upholding the status quo on the Temple Mount.
Israeli spokespeople are also relaying a similar message in the Arab media and on Arabic social media sites, and it has also been made clear that – with the exception of government ministers and both Jewish and Arab Mks – there are currently no limitations on access to the Temple Mount.
The messages come amid concern in Jerusalem that, as has happened frequently in the past, Jewish visits to the site on the Jewish festivals will trigger Palestinian violence. Palestinian leaders in recent days have stepped up warnings against “provocations” by Jews visiting the Temple Mount.
According to government officials, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a meeting of security officials last week to discuss the issue.Herb Keinon contributed to this report.