Leader of the northern Islamic Movement Sheikh Raed Salah gestures after leaving the district court in Jerusalem October 27, 2015..
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
With concern in Jerusalem that Passover, which begins on April 22, could trigger violence around the Temple Mount as Jews flock to the Western Wall for prayers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Sunday for the jailing of the head of the extremist Northern Branch of Islamic Movement, Raed Salah.
“We are seeing efforts by Raed Salah to heat up the Temple Mount area before Passover,” Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting. “This man is a one-man explosive.”
Calling for the security forces and the judiciary to “distance him,” Netanyahu said Salah should long ago been put behind bars.
The government has accused Saleh of being instrumental in fomenting the violence that began last October by circulating the false rumor that Israel was endangering the Aksa Mosque.
Salah was convicted last March of incitement during a 2007 speech, and sentenced to 11 months in jail.
Although the Jerusalem District Court upheld his verdict in October, he has an appeal pending before the Supreme Court.
Israel outlawed Salah’s group in November, with a government statement explaining that the group has for years “been waging a campaign of deceitful incitement under the banner of ‘al-Aksa is in danger,’ which blames Israel by falsely accusing it of intending to harm the Aksa Mosque and to violate the status quo there.”
Meanwhile, the International Crisis Group, a trans-national NGO, issued a report on Thursday saying that the Temple Mount is “ironically, quieter than in years,” and that this is the product of “quiet understandings in 2014 and 2015” reached between Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
According to the report, based on “informed observers,” when the two leaders met in Amman in 2014 after a spate of violence on the Temple Mount, Netanyahu promised to prevent all Knesset members and Israeli political figures from entering the area, refrain from age and gender restrictions on entry of Muslims and Palestinians to the site, and constrain access for Jewish Temple Mount activists.
Abdullah, according to the report, pledged “to keep the young Palestinians who became the next day’s stone-throwers from surreptitiously entering the compound at night.”
However, as these understanding frayed toward the end of 2015 and the beginning of the current round of terrorism, the understanding were reaffirmed and clarified by US Secretary of State John Kerry who traveled to Jordan in late October of that year. Israel, Netanyahu promised after Kerry’s trip, would “continue to enforce its longstanding policy: Muslims pray on the Temple Mount; non-Muslims visit the Temple Mount.”
The Kerry visit also produced an agreement, yet to be implemented, to install video cameras on the Temple Mount to provide a live video feed so it will be clear who is responsible for violence there.
One government official told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that there was little likelihood that the cameras would be in place by Passover, but that they could be installed shortly thereafter.