Israel on Friday rejected Palestinian calls for an international force to be deployed in East Jerusalem to promote calm around the Temple Mount and the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque.
“Let me be crystal clear — Israel will not agree to any international presence on the Temple Mount. Such a presence would be a change in the status quo,” Israeli Deputy Ambassador David Roet told the UN Security Council.
The 15-member council met in an emergency session to discuss weeks of escalating violence between Israel and the Palestinians in Jerusalem and the territories.
The urgent talks were requested by council member Jordan following a meeting on Thursday of Arab ambassadors who expressed alarm at the escalating situation.
Palestinian envoy to the UN Riyad Mansour had called on the Security Council to provide international protection to the holy site.
But Roet said Israel was respectful of all religions in the city. Meanwhile, he said, the Palestinians were unwilling to acknowledge any Jewish rights to the capital’s holy sites.
On Friday, Palestinians torched a Jewish holy site in the West Bank as they staged a “Friday of revolution” against Israel and a man posing as a news photographer stabbed an Israeli soldier before he was shot dead.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “strongly condemns this reprehensible act and calls on those responsible to be swiftly brought to justice,” Assistant Secretary General Taye-Brook Zerihoun told the council.
But Zerihoun also criticized what he called Israel’s “apparent heavy-handed” use of force in dealing with Palestinian violence and said Israeli actions raised “serious questions” about the proportionality of the response.
He said the current crisis could not be solved by military means alone and was a result of ongoing despair by the Palestinians coupled with a lack of hope in the face of ongoing settlement expansion, as well as economic hardship. He accused both sides of escalating the tensions through their fiery rhetoric and called on all parties to work to restore calm.
While Ban’s representative welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin’s Netanyahu’s repeated statements that Israel does not intend to change the status quo at the Temple Mount, he said statements were insufficient, as growing movements within the Israeli right were seeking to expand Israeli control over the compound, and were promoting their agenda through words and actions.
Jerusalem, he said, needed to do more on the ground to assure the world that it was committed to the status quo.
Ahead of the meeting, Israel’s recently installed Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said the council did not need another general discussion about the situation but rather a meeting on the “wild incitement” by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, which, he said, was encouraging a wave of terror attacks against Israelis.
“Israelis are being stabbed, bombed, run over and stoned, yet this council remains silent,” he added.
The ambassador presented a Palestinian poster that describes the most efficient way to stab Jews and said the Palestinian leadership had “established an incubator to raise children as terrorists.
“Instead of educating about peace and tolerance, the Palestinian leadership is brainwashing children with incitement and hate,” he said.