Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday welcomed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call for Israeli politicians to lower tensions surrounding the Temple Mount, and his pledge not to change the status quo that bars Jewish prayer at the site, saying the prime minister had taken a necessary step toward quelling the ongoing violence in Jerusalem.
In a statement issued by Abbas’s office, the PA president said Netanyahu was right to call for preserving the status quo, and termed his comments a “step in the right direction.” Abbas warned of the consequences of the “violation and provocations by the extremists that would lead to serious results in the entire region and ignite the instability in Palestine and the region.”
Netanyahu made his comments Sunday at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.
Netanyahu’s call came after right-wing activists and several MKs called for a mass march on Thursday to the Temple Mount as a response to the shooting of Rabbi Yehudah Glick, a Temple Mount activist, the night before by a Palestinian gunman. The series of events prompted Israeli authorities to institute a closure Thursday of the Temple Mount to Muslims and Jews — a move bitterly criticized by Abbas as a “declaration of war.” The closure order was lifted Friday.
Defying Netanyahu’s call, Likud MK Moshe Feiglin visit the Temple Mount on Sunday, and Jewish Home’s Housing Minister Uri Ariel told a rally on Saturday night that the status quo on the Temple Mount, where Jews are barred from praying, would change.
Meanwhile, the condition of Glick improved over the weekend. His condition remained serious, however, and he was expected to undergo further surgery on Monday.
Glick was shot and seriously injured Wednesday by an assailant on a motorcycle upon leaving a conference in Jerusalem’s Menachem Begin Center that dealt with promoting greater Jewish access to the Temple Mount. The shooter escaped, but was identified by police as Mu’taz Hijazi, an employee at the center’s cafeteria. Security forces killed Hijazi on Thursday morning in Jerusalem’s Abu Tor neighborhood, saying he opened fire when they came to arrest him. Palestinians claim he was shot in cold blood.
Police said Friday they arrested a man who may have assisted the alleged shooter. Like Hijazi, the man worked in the cafeteria at the Begin Center.
The shooting attack came on the heels of a series of events that have led to rising tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem.
Al-Aqsa, in the Old City, and adjacent neighborhoods have seen months of violence, and the mosque compound has been a rallying point for Palestinians.
Last month a Palestinian man drove a car into a crowded train platform located along the seam separating East and West Jerusalem, killing two. In the days following, Palestinians have clashed continuously with Israeli police in Arab neighborhoods of the capital. Israel responded to the rise in violence by increasing its police presence, deploying an additional 1,000 officers to the city.
AFP contributed to this report.