Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday reiterated his rejection of a French proposal to deploy international monitors at the Temple Mount amid a recent spate of violence, saying Israel is “not the problem” at the volatile Jerusalem shrine, but rather the “solution” there.
“Israel cannot accept the French draft at the [UN] Security Council. It doesn’t mention Palestinian incitement, it doesn’t mention Palestinian terrorism, and it calls for the internationalization of the Temple Mount,” Netanyahu said at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting.
France submitted a draft proposal on the issue to the UN Security Council on Friday evening, which Netanyahu on Saturday slammed as “absurd.”
The French proposal “calls for the internationalization of the holy places in the Middle East,” he said on Sunday. “Well, we’ve seen across the Middle East – in Palmyra, in Iraq, throughout Iraq and elsewhere — how militant Muslims blast each other’s mosques sky-high. We’ve just seen it in a Jewish holy site, Joseph’s Tomb. Only Israel, Israel alone, is the guarantor of the holy sites on the Temple Mount.”
Palmyra is an internationally recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site in Syria where Islamic State terrorists blew up several monuments dating back to ancient times. On Friday, Palestinians torched Joseph’s Tomb, a Jewish holy site in the West Bank city of Nablus.
“Israel is not the problem on the Temple Mount,” Netanyahu continued. “Israel is the solution. We keep the status quo, we are the only ones who do so, and we will continue doing so responsibly and seriously.”
The Palestinians claim that Israel is seeking to change the status quo at the Temple Mount, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims, a charge that Israel vehemently denies. Jews currently can visit but not pray at the Mount, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The violence perpetrated in the name of this claim began last month and has in recent weeks escalated into near-daily terror attacks against Israeli civilians and security forces. So far this month, seven Israelis have been killed and many others wounded in 31 separate stabbing attacks by Palestinians. Dozens of Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank and Gaza, during attacks on Israeli security forces and civilians or while rioting.
Netanyahu said there was never any Israeli attempt to challenge the status quo but such attempts have been by “people organized by Islamic movements in Israel and by other external actors who tried to insert explosives into mosques and attack Jews from inside mosques.
“This is the change to the status quo, this is what is causing all the events at the Temple Mount over the last year, this and nothing else. We maintain the status quo and will continue to do so,” he charged.
The Temple Mount status quo has been in place since Israel retook its capital Jerusalem from Jordanian forces in the Six Day War in 1967.
The prime minister said Israel has been “taking a deliberate and systematic approach in the face of the wave of terrorism – increasing the number of troops, giving them full support and taking deterrent and punitive measures.
“Today we will start actions against incitement, including against the Islamic Movement, which is at the head of inciters, and especially against its sources of funding,” he added.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan also criticized the French proposal, saying Saturday night that such a move would only reward Palestinian terrorism.
“The French proposal to place international observers on the Temple Mount is distorted and biased,” said Erdan, in language that echoed the comments by Netanyahu. “We are currently working with the US to thwart it.”
“Factually, those who turned the Temple Mount into a terror warehouse are the Palestinians. Those who are trying to harm the status quo and prevent Jewish visits are the Palestinians. Those who are inciting and lying about the events on the Temple Mount are the Palestinians,” he said.
“Israel has been and will continue to be committed to the status quo. Those who wish to install international observers are rewarding Palestinian violence and undermining Israeli sovereignty.”