Netanyahu says Israel won’t remove Temple Mt. metal detectors for now
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Netanyahu says Israel won’t remove Temple Mt. metal detectors for now

PM holds telephone consultations with security chiefs while on a visit to Hungary, says situation will be reevaluated

Muslim worshipers shout slogans at the Lions Gate, outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, on July 19, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Muslim worshipers shout slogans at the Lions Gate, outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, on July 19, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

BUDAPEST, Hungary — Israel will not remove metal detectors from the Temple Mount at the current time, but will continuously reevaluate the situation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.

“We had a security consolation and no decision was taken. There will be additional security consultations,” he told the traveling press. There have been reported disagreements between the Shin Bet and the police over the issue. Netanyahu said he “listens to them all.”

“We want to solve this crisis in the quietest way possible and to bring back the calm,” Netanyahu said. “We talk with the Arab world and we explain that there is absolutely no change to the status quo” on the holy site.

The metal detectors, which were erected after Friday’s deadly shooting attack, constitute “a means to prevent firearms from being brought to the Temple Mount,” he said.

Before traveling to Budapest, Netanyahu was in Paris. “When I visited the Eiffel Tower, I noticed that something had changed,” he said. “You know what had changed? They installed metal detectors.”

French President Emmanuel Macron embraces Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Vel d'Hiv roundup in Paris on July 16, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / Kamil Zihnioglu)
French President Emmanuel Macron embraces Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Vel d’Hiv roundup in Paris on July 16, 2017. (AFP/Pool/Kamil Zihnioglu)

The Temple Mount has reemerged as a flashpoint in recent days, with Muslim protesters holding, at times violent demonstrations in and outside of the Old City in protest of Israel’s placement of metal detectors at the site following the terror attack last week in which three Arab Israelis shot dead two police officers guarding one of the entrances.

The metal detectors were part of increased security measures after police said the attackers had stashed their weapons on the Temple Mount and emerged armed from the holy site to open fire on the officers.

Earlier in the day, Netanyahu conducted two phone consultations with his security chiefs as tensions mounted.

Channel 2 said there was a professional disagreement between Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Israel Police representatives, who wanted to keep the detectors, and the Shin Bet heads who voiced support for their removal to avoid an unnecessary escalation in violence.

In addition to Erdan, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, Police Chief Roni Alsheich, head of Shin Bet Nadav Argaman and other senior officials participated in Wednesday morning’s phone conference.

Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett appeared to indicate that Netanyahu was one of those opposed to removing the detectors.

“I support the Prime Minister and Minister of Public Security. We must stand strong and ensure security on Temple Mount,” Bennett said noting that other holy sites including Mecca and the Western Wall had metal detectors.

“Caving in to Palestinian pressure now will hurt Israel’s deterrence, and risk the life of the visitors, worshipers and law enforcement officials on Temple Mount,” he said.

Netanyahu is currently on a state visit in Hungry. He was scheduled to meet with the heads of government of Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic, attend a Hungary-Israel economic forum and visit the Hungarian Jewish community at the Dohany Street Synagogue.

Israel was also said to be in talks with Jordan over the situation.The head of the Jordanian-based Waqf Trust that administers the holy compound also confirmed contacts between Israel and Jordan are ongoing regarding the detectors.

“We are in communication with the Jordanian government which is in contact with the government of Israel,” the director of the Waqf, Sheikh Azzam al Khati, said. “As is known, security has always been in the hands of Israelis. But for us, we will not accept any changes, even for security,” he said.

Clashes between Muslim protesters and Israel Police continued for the fourth consecutive day following the detector’s installation.

Around 150-200 worshipers had gathered neared the Lions Gate and performed the afternoon prayer, as part of their protest against the placement of metal detectors at the Temple Mount’s entrances.

Sheikh Azzam Khatib, director of Islamic Waqf department (L) and Sheikh Yousef Abu Snaineh, Imam and Preacher of Al Aqsa Mosque at Lions Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem on July 19, 2017. (Dov Lieber/Times of Israel)
Sheikh Azzam Khatib, director of Islamic Waqf department (L) and Sheikh Yousef Abu Snaineh, Imam and Preacher of Al Aqsa Mosque at Lions Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem on July 19, 2017. (Dov Lieber/Times of Israel)

Following the prayers, a few men remained and shouted chants about the Al-Aqsa Mosque before police asked them to move. When one man refused, police started to arrest him, and worshipers nearby began to throw water bottles at the officers. Police threw stun grenades, and the crowd quickly dispersed.

Police said that the man was detained for “disturbing the peace.”

The Palestinian Fatah movement called for a “Day of Rage” on Wednesday to protest the new security measures.

The organization, headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, called for marches in the West Bank toward Israeli checkpoints in protest of the new measures and announced that Friday prayers, when many worshipers go to the Temple Mount, would be conducted in public squares instead.

Following the terror attack, in which the gunmen killed two Israeli Druze police officers, Israel made the rare move of closing the compound while it searched for more weaponry there, reopening it to Muslims on Sunday and to non-Muslims on Monday.

Muslim worshipers perform noon prayers the Lion's Gate, outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City on July 19, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Muslim worshipers perform noon prayers the Lion’s Gate, outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City on July 19, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israel has said repeatedly it has no plans to change the status quo at the Mount. It has always been responsible for security there, and Friday’s attack necessitated upgraded security, officials said. All visitors to the Western Wall plaza, below the Mount, have long had to pass through metal detectors, as have non-Muslim visitors to the Mount, who gain access via the Mughrabi Gate.

Dov Lieber contributed reporting from Jerusalem.

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