Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat has accused Israel of attempting to “divide and steal” the Temple Mount by limiting access to the site holy to Jews and Muslims.
The senior Palestinian official’s remarks Monday came amid clashes between police and Arab protesters at the Temple Mount, which houses the al-Aqsa Mosque. The flashpoint site is deemed the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest in Islam.
Erekat said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s intention of changing entry policies to the Temple Mount complex was “strategic,” Channel 10 reported. He may have been referring to remarks made by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Sunday to the effect that the discovery of pipe bombs — allegedly stashed for use in skirmishes with Israeli police — “forces us to reconsider the arrangements for the Temple Mount.”
“What he’s doing is part of the plan and strategic position of his, but if he succeeds in dividing and stealing al-Aqsa, what will we live for?” Erekat said.
He claimed in his statement that the escalation of violence was an Israeli retaliation for the “Palestinian victory in the UN” — the PA’s success in winning approval to have the Palestinian flag raised at Turtle Bay.
“Netanyahu knows well that it’s really playing with fire and it’ll lead to violence, radicalization and spilling of blood.
“The world needs to dry up the Israeli terrorist swamp,” Erekat told a meeting of PLO members.
Earlier in the day, Tzipi Livni, formerly Erekat’s counterpart in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, told German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier that “Israel is the subject of Islamist provocation on the Temple Mount.” She didn’t specify which group or groups were responsible for the incitement.