Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman blasted right-wing MKs whom he accused of fanning tensions in Jerusalem by visiting the Temple Mount for political gain.
“I think that it is stupid,” he said of the visits, which Palestinian leaders have called “provocations.”
“I think it’s the pursuit of cheap and easy publicity and a somewhat cynical exploitation of the complicated political situation,” said Liberman, a right-winger himself who heads the Yisrael Beytenu party. “And let’s say it this way: it’s a lack of wisdom” on the part of the right-wing MKs.
“Increasing the friction won’t bring security; it won’t bring anything,” he told Israel Radio on Thursday.
MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) echoed Liberman’s call for Knesset members to stop making publicity-grabbing visits to the holy site.
“These are members of Knesset that want more media coverage,” he said. “At times like these they need to hold themselves back and to stop igniting the Temple Mount.”
Mofaz, a former IDF chief of staff and former defense minister, called for an alternative approach in dealing with the growing violence in Jerusalem and the spate of car-ramming terror attacks.
“The police are doing the best that they can but it is not enough… There is a new kind of suicide [attack] and there is a need to adapt the modes of operation and diplomacy,” he said.
Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) called for more direct involvement in the lives of East Jerusalem residents to counter incitement from the Palestinian Authority.
“What is happening today is the result of a long period of neglect and abandonment,” he told the Ynet news site. “For a long time I have been urging the minister for internal security and the chief of police to stop the policy of containment. Today we are dealing with East Jerusalem youth that for dozens of years have been raised on an inciting education program from the Palestinian Authority.”
The Temple Mount is the holiest site to Jews, who are allowed by Israel to visit but not pray there, and also contains the third-holiest site to Muslims, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the nearby Dome of the Rock. The compound has been a flashpoint for violence over the past several months, as Muslim worshipers have often rioted during protests against Jewish activists’ calls to allow Jewish prayer at the site.
The violence has persisted despite calls by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for calm and restraint, and Israel’s repeated pledge not to change the status quo at the Temple Mount.
The compound was briefly closed to visitors on Wednesday morning after Palestinians threw rocks and set off fireworks at security forces near the Mughrabi Gate, the only gate through which non-Muslims may enter the site.
Israel Radio reported that police chased the rioters into the al-Aqsa Mosque. Police took the rare measure of entering several meters into the mosque, where they saw a stash of stones, bottles, and Molotov cocktails that the demonstrators had prepared.
The Balad party issued a statement condemning police for “playing with fire” by taking the “provocative” and “disproportionate” step of entering the mosque, further charging that they caused damage to holy books.
The incident prompted Jordan to recall its ambassador from Israel in protest.
Since the Temple Mount reopened to Jewish visitors on Sunday, three right-wing politicians — MKs Moshe Feiglin, Tzipi Hotovely and Shuli Moalem-Refaeli — have visited the site, claiming it as their democratic right and denouncing the double standard for Jewish and Muslim worshipers.
The compound was closed to all visitors, including Muslim worshipers, last Thursday following the attempted murder the night before of Yehudah Glick, a Jewish right-wing activist known for his campaign to allow Jewish prayer at the site. The attacker, Mu’taz Hijazi, who also had connections to a terrorist organization, was killed in a firefight with police when they tried to arrest him in the Abu Tor neighborhood the following morning.
Meanwhile, violence has spread throughout East Jerusalem, with the city experiencing near-daily incidents of rioting and stone-throwing, as well as two terror attacks in the last two weeks, most recently on Wednesday. In each instance, a Palestinian man with links to a terrorist organization plowed his car into a crowd of people near a light rail stop.
Wednesday’s attack killed Jedan Assad, a border police officer, and left over a dozen people wounded, and an October 22 attack left two people dead, including a three-month-old girl.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.