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Lapid cuts vacation short amid Jerusalem tensions, Jordan’s hostile response

Criticized for going abroad, foreign minister says he held assessment on situation in capital; controversial Islamic leader visits Temple Mount

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, on April 3, 2022. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City, on April 3, 2022. (Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will cut his vacation to Madrid short and return to Israel on Tuesday evening amid rising tensions over Jerusalem’s Temple Mount compound.

Lapid’s decision to take time off overseas was met with criticism as clashes between security forces and Palestinian rioters in the capital have drawn international condemnations of Israel, primarily from Jordan and Turkey.

“This morning, I held a situation evaluation meeting,” Lapid said in a statement, noting that he was updated about the latest intelligence and political developments regarding Jerusalem.

“I’ve instructed participants to continue with dialogue at all political ranks to deescalate the tensions and emphasize Israel’s efforts to allow freedom of worship for all religions,” he said.

Lapid also said preparations for the upcoming UN Security Council meeting on the Jerusalem unrest were discussed during the meeting.

Meanwhile, several opposition lawmakers criticized Lapid for traveling abroad due to the heightened Israeli-Palestinian security tensions, which included the launch of a rocket by terrorists in the Gaza Strip for the first time in months.

“Lapid while in the opposition after an attack from Gaza: ‘On our watch, Hamas leaders will get a guided missile into their homes,'” Likud MK Galit Distel Atbaryan tweeted.

“Alternate Prime Minister Lapid after an attack from Gaza: ‘This morning at the hotel in Madrid there were four types of omelets, it’s a shame I didn’t wake up in time,'” she added, referring to the position Lapid holds as part of his power-sharing coalition with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

Also Tuesday, firebrand Arab Israeli cleric Sheikh Raed Salah visited the Temple Mount with former MK Mohammad Barakeh, who serves as chairman of the High Monitoring Committee for Arab citizens of Israel.

Islamic leader Raed Salah and Mohammad Barakeh, chairman of the High Monitoring Committee for Arab citizens of Israel, arrive for a visit at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, on April 19, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Salah led the Islamic Movement’s radical Northern Branch until it was outlawed in 2015 and later served prison time for incitement to terror.

Far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir criticized police for allowing the sheikh into the compound, according to Hebrew media.

“The absurd is breaking all records,” he said. “The national inciter… has received police approval to visit the Temple Mount. The reward that police are giving terrorism and this terrorist is bizarre and unacceptable.”

Ben Gvir, who heads the extreme-right Otzma Yehudit faction, last month received a special authorization to visit the site.

Salah’s visit came a day after Palestinian rioters throw rocks at Israeli buses en route to the Western Wall, as well as in the Temple Mount compound, in an attempt to prevent non-Muslims from touring the site.

Larger clashes broke out at the site on Friday after police entered the compound in response to rioting.

Israeli police officers during clashes outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in Jerusalem’s Old City, on April 17, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Both Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned Israel for allowing Jewish pilgrims into the site and clashing with Palestinians, with the Jordanian monarch urging Israel to respect “the historical and legal status quo” there.

Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh hailed Palestinian rioters on Monday and used unusually hostile language to condemn “Zionist sympathizers” and what he called Israel’s “occupation government.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett later said he viewed “with utmost severity” comments blaming Israel for the violence after Israel’s Foreign Ministry directly accused Jordan of “backing those who… resort to violence.”

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