Opposition accuses gov't of shirking hard security decisions over Temple Mount

The cabinet essentially adopted the police stance, which sided with keeping the metal detectors.

July 21, 2017 10:12
3 minute read.
Israeli border police officers stand guard as Palestinians pray at Lions' Gate, the entrance to Jeru

Israeli border police officers stand guard as Palestinians pray at Lions' Gate, the entrance to Jerusalem's Old City, in protest over Israel's new security measures at the Temple Mount July 20, 2017.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Opposition MKs criticized Friday morning’s security cabinet decision to essentially adopt the police stance and leave the metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount ahead of Muslim prayers.

Labor Party chairman Avi Gabbay said it was a mistake that the ministers decided to pass the buck to the police but that the police and the IDF will stand up to the security challenge before them.

Zionist Union MK Omer Bar-Lev, a former commander of the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit (Sayeret Matkal), said, “The State of Israel fell into the trap laid for them by the terrorists to change our conflict with the Palestinians to a religious conflict between Islam and us.”

An Israeli police officer checks the identity of a Palestinian man next to newly installed metal detectors at an entrance to the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City July 16, 2017. (Reuters)

Bar-Lev said it was a mistake to leave the metal detectors in place. He accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the security cabinet of “running from responsibility by leaving decisions to the police and rejecting the recommendations of the IDF and the Shin Bet security service.”

Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On fiercely criticized the security cabinet decision.

“Netanyahu and his group of incompetent individuals have rolled the hot potato into the hands of the Israeli police, in the clear knowledge that it has the potential to explode into violence and the situation could spin out of control,” said Gal-On. “Netanyahu feels the shadow of [Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett behind him and prioritizes political considerations over security considerations.”

Transportation Minister Israel Katz (Likud), who like Education Minister Bennett is a member of the security cabinet, said that Israel remains responsible for the security of the Temple Mount and won’t compromise it’s authority over the site.

“The Temple Mount is in our hands, and we cannot compromise on our sovereignty,” Katz said. “Unlike what was published, the security cabinet did make a decision – to continue using all means to restore security, including metal detectors.

It’s up to the police to implement our decision.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) tweeted that the cabinet had come to the “right decision” and that Netanyahu had “looked after the national interest.”

Israeli policemen secure the scene of the shooting attack at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City July 14, 2017. (Reuters)

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said that he’s backing the police and that the security cabinet’s decision to keep the metal detectors is the right choice.

“The decision of Jerusalem Police District head Asst.-Ch.Yoram Halevy to place these metal detectors near the Temple Mount is a brave decision,” said Barkat, “because this time last week we had two policemen killed [by terrorists who used weapons smuggled onto the Mount]. He is taking responsibility that things like this will not happen again.”

Barkat added that Israel should not be intimidated by threats and should not reward terrorism by backing down: “I welcome the police on their courageous decisions and cabinet for backing them up.”

“This is not a political issue, but a security-related one,” Barkat added. “No one is trying the change the status quo on Temple Mount, and I call on all Muslim residents to calm the spirits, avoid violence and listen to the police.”

Kulanu MK Rachel Azaria, a former Jerusalem deputy mayor, said that in order to prevent an explosion on the Temple Mount, the security cabinet decision should have accompanied by intensive outreach to the moderate Arab civil society leaders of Jerusalem.

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel said on Army Radio that Israel should allow everyone to pray on Temple Mount, adding that it is the only place in the world where Jews are not allowed to pray freely. Ariel also called on Netanyahu to change the current situation and noted that “the prime minister is facing a great challenge.”

Tovah Lazaroff and Udi Shaham contributed to this report.

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