Opposition leader Isaac Herzog called on the government to impose a closure on the West Bank over the coming days, to help thwart the upsurge in terrorism.
Herzog told Army Radio that a closure for a few days might help calm the atmosphere and prevent some attacks.
He also described Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as “one of the last sane voices” among the Palestinians, and said it was vital that the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships changed “the tone” of their interaction, and that the tension surrounding the Temple Mount be “calmed.”
Herzog toured the Old City of Jerusalem earlier Thursday, and criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the government’s response to the terror attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
“The writing has long been on the wall. The prime minister waited and waited and did not take care to ban the extremists from the area in time.”
Alluding to coalition lawmakers who entered the Old City’s volatile Temple Mount complex, and implying that they had triggered recent unrest, Herzog added, “The politicians who came to the Temple Mount put a match to territory they should not have set fire to. I will be far better at handling the situation.”
Ongoing tensions in Jerusalem in recent weeks have been punctuated by multiple deadly terror attacks by Palestinians in recent days and clashes in the West Bank.
In all, four Israelis have been killed in stabbings by Palestinian attackers and a roadside shooting in recent days, while five Palestinians, including three of the attackers, have been killed. On Thursday morning, a 25-your-old Israeli man was stabbed and seriously wounded at a Jerusalem light rail stop by a 19-year-old Palestinian assailant. On Wednesday, Palestinians carried out stabbing attacks outside a crowded mall in central Israel, in a southern Israeli town and in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Many Palestinians believe Israel is trying to expand the Jewish presence at the Temple Mount, revered by both Jews and Muslims, a claim Israel adamantly denies and considers slanderous. Under a longstanding arrangement administered by Islamic authorities, Jews are allowed to visit the site during certain hours but not to pray there.
Senior opposition lawmaker Tzipi Livni, who toured the Old City with Herzog, said “calls [on Jerusalem residents] to carry arms signal a loss of control by the government – and will lead to total anarchy.” She was apparently alluding to comments made earlier Thursday by Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who called on Israelis who own a licensed weapon to carry it with them at all times.
Livni referred to a decision earlier in the day by Netanyahu to prevent politicians from entering the Mount, saying the prime minister should “show some guts and say — like he said MKs will not go up to the Temple Mount until further notice – there will be no construction in [the West Bank] until further notice.”
Netanyahu has not publicly announced a construction freeze, but according to reports published earlier this week has said, in meetings with ministers, that such a freeze is de facto in effect.
Still, Livni said, the decision to ban lawmakers from all parties from the Mount is “correct, but it’s a shame that it comes a year after he promised the Jordanians to do so.”
Jordan is the legal custodian of the Temple Mount, and manages the site through the Waqf religious authority.
AP contributed to this report.