Clashes and ramped up tensions at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount in the wake of last week’s deadly terror attack reverberate through Israel’s print media on Monday.
“Whoever blinks first” leads Yedioth Ahronoth’s coverage of the high-stakes standoff between Israeli security forces and Muslim worshipers protesting the increased security measures imposed at the holy site over the weekend.
Columnist Nahum Barnea postulates the increased security measures will ultimately prove to be ineffective. He says the measures, specifically the metal detectors placed at entrances to the site, were imposed to temporarily assuage the fears of the Jewish Israeli public.
“The metal detectors will lead to chaos, the chaos will lead to turmoil, the turmoil will force police to allow masses of worshipers inside. Whoever wants to smuggle weapons inside, will have their opportunity — without much effort.”
The Temple Mount was closed Friday after three Arab Israeli terrorists opened fire at a group of police officers, killing two of them, using guns that had apparently been stashed earlier on the site.
Before reopening the compound on Sunday, Israeli police installed metal detectors at several entrances on the order of the Prime Minister’s Office, drawing complaints from officials from the Waqf, which administers the holy site.
Waqf officials called on Muslims to boycott the Temple Mount in protest of the new security arrangements, and some worshipers have instead been holding prayers outside the Lions Gate entrance to the site.
The free Israel Hayom daily adopts a more biting tone in its coverage of the Muslim backlash to Israel’s new security measures at the site.
One Israel Hayom writer, Erez Lin, suggests the backlash over the new regulations stem from the fact that they were imposed at a Muslim holy place by non-Muslims. He dryly notes that in recent years Saudi Arabia has significantly upgraded its security at Musim holy sites, including requiring all hajj pilgrims to wear GPS-enabled electronic bracelets and installing metal detectors and nearly 1,000 cameras in Mecca’s Grand Mosque alone.
In the same paper, columnist Nadav Shragai accuses the Waqf of hypocrisy, calling the organization “two-faced” for simultaneously rejecting Israeli authorities and working with them.
Shragai argues that yesterday’s protests at the site led by Waqf officials protesting the metal detectors is a ploy to prove their dedication to the “struggle for Al-Aqsa” by claiming it violates the longstanding status quo. But in reality, Shragai says the Waqf works closely with Israeli authorities.
“Officially, the Waqf does not recognize the legitimacy of Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. In practice, it conducts almost daily dialogue with the government of Israel. In between these two extremes is where the administrators of the Temple Mount are operating,” he writes. “The pattern of behavior identified here is mainly two-facedness.”
Monday’s edition of Haaretz takes a bleaker outlook at the heightened tensions in the capital.
Analyst Nir Hasson points out that the latest tensions at the Jerusalem holy site have both Israel and the Palestinians skating on thin ice as neither party has the safety net of an US administration to fall back on.
“The Trump administration doesn’t appear to be capable of, or even interested in delving into the nitty-gritty of the Mount’s status quo,” he writes.
Within minutes of the Temple Mount’s reopening yesterday with the new security measures in place, Hasson says it became clear that “both sides were up a tree without a ladder.”
Israel, he says, won’t remove the metal detectors, while the Waqf won’t withdraw its demand to do so.
He speculates the latest confrontations will lead to violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.