Bringing explosives and pipe bombs into al-Aksa Mosque is a violation of the status quo at the site that Israel simply will not tolerate, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting.
The Palestinians claimed that Israel is trying to undermine the status quo on the site, while Netanyahu has said repeatedly that Israel is committed to retaining it.
Israel “will act responsibly, but with determination, to ensure that the existing arrangements are maintained,” he said. “We have no plans to change them, but we also have no intention of allowing anyone to cause the deterioration of the arrangements on the Temple Mount by resorting to explosive and widespread violence.”
“We are not altering the status quo.” he said. “Those who incite with baseless, wild provocations – as if Israel is trying to prevent Muslim prayer on the Temple Mount or wants to destroy the mosques, or other wild things that are being said – they are the ones who are inciting. This incitement comes from the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Movement in Israel, Hamas, and – to our chagrin – also with the active participation of the Palestinian Authority.”
Netanyahu, in an unusual step, also pointed a finger at Turkey for stirring up the situation.
Those worried about the situation in Jerusalem, he said, would “do best to direct their criticism, not towards Jerusalem, but rather towards Ramallah, Gaza and agitators in the Galilee, and unfortunately, towards Turkey, from where incitement issues forth on a daily, even hourly, basis, not only to throw firebombs, but also something new – bringing explosives and pipe bombs onto the Temple Mount.”
The finger pointing at Turkey is directed at senior Hamas leader Salah al-Arouri, someone the Erdogan government lets operate there, and whom Israel believes is responsible for remotely organizing terrorist attacks, funneling money to Hamas operatives, and encouraging Palestinian youth to throw rocks and firebombs in the capital.
Immediately after the cabinet meeting, Netanyahu convened another, in a series of high-level security consultations discussing the volatile situation on the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria.
The only new element that emerged from that meeting – which again focused on changing the open-fire regulations, setting a minimum punishment for throwers of rocks and firebombs, and leveling heavy fines on the parents of minors involved in such activities – was a decision to enhance the police presence into “problematic neighborhoods” in Jerusalem.
Netanyahu said that new punishment and open fire regulations were necessary to deal with the “new situation” on the ground. One official said that Netanyahu wants the security services to have the necessary tools to save lives in “life threatening” situations.
“Stones and firebombs are deadly weapons; they kill and have killed,” Netanyahu told the cabinet, adding that “we will continue to add forces in order to strike at rioters under a simple principle that we will begin to implement around and within our borders: We will hit whoever tries to attack us.”
Netanyahu said Israel will not accept a situation whereby people in Jerusalem or anywhere in the country “will organize terrorism and begin to throw firebombs at passing cars or throw rocks that murder people. This norm will not be established here; rather an opposite norm will be established – we will act against you and stop you, and we will punish you with the full force of the law.”
With all due respect to the courts, Netanyahu said, “It is our right and our duty to establish this norm. Just as we did with regards to sex crimes, we will set minimum punishments for those who throw stones and firebombs.”