Netanyahu under pressure to remove metal detectors

After five days of mass protest prayers on the street by Muslims who refuse to walk through the machines tensions are high as Friday prayers draw near.

An Israeli soldier looks over a massive prayer session outside the Lions' Gate in Jerusalem, July 2017 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
An Israeli soldier looks over a massive prayer session outside the Lions' Gate in Jerusalem, July 2017
 The fate of the metal detectors placed at entrances to the Temple Mount remained uncertain at press time late Thursday night, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held emergency security consultations immediately upon his return from Hungary, in an effort to prevent riots from erupting during Friday prayer services.
Netanyahu held back-to-back meetings with defense officials and the security cabinet, to review options for how to calm tensions surrounding the issue of the metal detectors. The prime minister heard differing security opinions from the army, which believes the metal detectors should be removed, and the police, which holds they should remain.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Channel 2 that “once the redline has been crossed of automatic weapons on the Temple Mount [as seen in last Friday’s terrorist attack], there is a need to change the security arrangements.” He said the metal detectors should remain because the focus should be on preventing future terrorist attacks.
Jerusalem Police head Asst.- Chief Yoram Halevy said his officers could deal with any threats, so there was no need to remove the metal detectors.
The situation was tense on Thursday night, with Muslims throwing stones and glass bottles at officers as they left evening prayers outside the Old City’s Lions’ Gate, according to police spokeswoman Luba Samri. Police responded with riot dispersal methods and five police officers were lightly injured, she added.
Netanyahu is under pressure to remove the metal detectors, after five days of mass protest prayers on the street by Muslims who refuse to walk through the machines.
The US and Jordan are working behind the scenes to help Israel find a solution to the crisis that began last Friday, when three Israeli-Arab terrorists killed two policemen by Lions’ Gate. The terrorists were then killed in a shootout in the Temple Mount compound.
Fatah and the Wakf Islamic trust called on Jerusalem mosques to remain closed on Friday so worshipers could go to the Temple Mount.
“We object to these metal detectors because they seize the control we have as the Wakf to direct al-Aksa Mosque,” said al-Aksa Mosque director Sheikh Omar Kiswani. “This is a breach for an internal case: Al-Aksa Mosque is for Muslims – only for Muslims – and we will never accept these metal detectors.”
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called on Palestinians to head to the Temple Mount.
“My clear message to the Zionist enemy is that al-Aksa and Jerusalem are a redline,” said Haniyeh. “I say to the Zionist enemy that the policy of closure and of implementing punishment measures against the Jerusalemites and the holy sites will never pass.
You [Israelis] never learn from history, and do not read geography.
You are blinded by your power. My clear word to you is that you should stop, you are lighting a fire.”
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah met in Ramallah with a group of European Union diplomats, and warned that the security situation could deteriorate if Israel continued in its attempts to change the status quo, according to WAFA, the Palestinian news agency.
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov called for calm.
“I welcome the commitment of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to uphold and respect the status quo at the holy sites, and Palestinian President Abbas’s firm condemnation of violence, specifically the deadly attack on two Israeli policemen on 14 July,” he said.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said on Wednesday that the US was “very concerned about tensions surrounding the Temple Mount/ Haram Al-Sharif, a site holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians, and calls upon the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to make a good faith effort to reduce tensions, to find a solution that assures public safety and the security of the site and maintains the status quo.”
Israel has called on UNESCO’s Director-General Irina Bokova to condemn any attempts to use the Temple Mount as a location from which to launch terrorist attacks.
Israel’s mission to UNESCO in Paris sent her a letter stating: “The Old City of Jerusalem, and its Walls, including Har-Habayit (Temple Mount), is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and as the director-general of [that] organization, I urge you to strongly condemn this deadly and shameful attack, [which] occurred within a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Michael Wilner and Reuters contributed to this report.