Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday slammed a French proposal to deploy international observers to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in response to the current round of violence, calling it a fundamentally absurd idea.
France submitted a draft proposal on the issue to the UN Security Council on Friday evening, according to the French newspaper Le Figaro.
“Those who brought in explosive devices and threw fireworks were Palestinians who turned the Temple Mount into a terror warehouse,” Netanyahu said. “Israel is upholding the status quo [at the site] and is committed to that.”
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan also criticized the 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.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said in response to the proposal that “all international involvement on the Temple Mount harms Israeli sovereignty.”
She added that the “false libel spread by Palestinians over the Temple Mount is the source of the terrible wave of violence,” and urged the international community call to halt the “false incitement and brutal violence, and not to buy the narrative that encourages terrorism.”
The violence 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.
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 can visit but not pray at the Mount, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Le Figaro said the 15-member council was set to vote on the statement, which, if adopted, could be endorsed by the presidency of the UN body, a post currently held by Spain.
“Independent observers could be put in place who could identify potential violations of the status quo [on the Temple Mount],” an “informed source” was quoted by the paper as saying.
French Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre had said he would circulate a draft statement appealing for calm, but there was no mention of the call for observers in previous media reports on the matter.
The proposal is not a resolution and would not be binding.
The council met Friday in an emergency session to discuss the ongoing violence in Jerusalem and across the West Bank surrounding tensions at the Temple Mount. At the meeting, Israel 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,” Israel’s Deputy Ambassador David Roet told the UN Security Council.
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. He also 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 city of Nablus as they staged a “Friday of revolution” against Israel, and a man posing as a news photographer stabbed an Israeli soldier in Hebron before he was shot dead.
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.
AFP contributed to this report