Border Police officers patrol Temple Mount.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel is working together with the US and others to thwart a French initiative to place international observers on the Temple Mount, a senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office said on Saturday night.
The French daily Le Figaro reported on Saturday that the French envoy to the United Nations introduced a draft text that would be endorsed by the president of the Security Council – currently Spain – to station “independent observers” on the Temple Mount to “identify possible violations of the status quo.”
A senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office dismissed the initiative as “baseless” and as “only declarative.”
“We expect that they condemn the incompetence of the Wakf on the Temple Mount,” the official said.
“Those who brought explosives and fired firecrackers were Palestinians who turned the Temple Mount into a terrorism warehouse, and they are the ones who tried to change the status quo.”
The official said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed National Security Council head Yossi Cohen and the Foreign Ministry to protest the “biased and baseless” language of the initiative.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called the French initiative “distorted and biased,” and said it gives a “prize” to Palestinian violence.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said any international intervention on the Temple Mount would be a violation of Israel’s sovereignty there. “Only one side is preserving the status quo, and that is Israel, which wants to allow freedom of religion for everyone,” she said.
The official in the PMO repeated what Netanyahu has been saying for months – that Israel is maintaining the status quo and is committed to it. He pointed out that, under the status quo, Jews are permitted to visit the Temple Mount, and that under the 1949 Armistice Agreement there was an international commitment to the rights of the Jews to visit the Temple Mount, a right not implemented until Israel took control of east Jerusalem following the Six Day War in 1967.
The official said Friday’s arson attack at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus is an indication of what would happen to the country’s holy places were they not in Israel’s hands.
The official went on to say that the core problem behind the current wave of terrorism is Palestinian incitement, and that Netanyahu will convene a security cabinet meeting this week to draw up operational plans to battle incitement, including what steps to take against the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel. Those steps include measures to stop the flow of funding to the organization.
If the security situation stabilizes, Netanyahu is scheduled to fly to Berlin with a number of government ministers for two days on Wednesday for a government-to-government meeting with the German cabinet, as well as a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel. He is tentatively scheduled to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry there as well.
Netanyahu postponed his originally scheduled trip to Berlin some two weeks ago because of the wave of terrorist attacks.
Kerry phoned Netanyahu Friday evening and, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, repeated what he said in a radio interview earlier in the day: that Israel has the right to defend itself against violence, that the Palestinians need to end the incitement, and the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas must clearly condemn the violence.
Netanyahu told Kerry the Palestinian violence is a direct result of the “lies” that the PA, Islamic Movement and Hamas are spreading about the Temple Mount.
Deflecting criticism that Israel was employing disproportionate force to stop the terrorist attacks, Netanyahu said Israel is using the force necessary against acts of terrorism and lawlessness, including attempts to break through the security fence in Gaza.