Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said Wednesday that members of Knesset and Jewish visitors will be prevented, where necessary, from going to the Temple Mount so as to avoid a deterioration of the already tense security situation in East Jerusalem and across the country.
“Those who want to heat things up on the Temple Mount, from right or left, be it the Islamic Movement, Fatah or Israeli rightist movements, including MKs, we have the authority to prevent them from going,” Aharonovitch said in an interview with Channel 1, the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
“When there’s an operational need, and we see that it may lead to riots, I will not allow them to go,” he added.
The minister further presented new security measures to be implemented on the Temple Mount, over which clashes have flared up in recent weeks.
Aharonovitch said police are set to begin using magnetometers as part of a screening process to check for concealed guns or other metallic weapons. Muslim worshipers, who until now were able to access the site freely, will undergo these screenings.
“We’re going to have magnetometers on the Temple Mount. This was discontinued in 2000 [before the outbreak of the Second Intifada] and I am bringing it back, to check people and their personal belongings,” he said.
The new measures were costing the ministry some NIS 4 million, according to the Walla news site.
While the minister had some harsh words for East Jerusalem rioters, advocating for the annulment of their residency permits (after Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, it granted permanent residency status to people in the annexed areas), he said that Israel was not seeing a third intifada.
“I’ve been in intifadas, the first one (1987-1993) the second (2000-2004)… at the moment it doesnt look like [there will be a third],” he said.
Earlier Wednesday, senior officials in the ministry and among police ranks criticized the Shin Bet security service, saying the agency did not pass on information about disturbances on the Temple Mount and elsewhere in East Jerusalem.
The police said the agency had information that Temple Mount activist Rabbi Yehudah Glick was targeted for assassination, before he was shot late last month, Haaretz reported. According to the report, the police believe the Shin Bet also has information about potential threats to other Israeli figures.
Since the Temple Mount reopened to Jewish visitors, following a one-day closure after the attempted assassination of Glick on October 30 and the killing of his shooter in an arrest operation, 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.
Late Monday night, after two separate terror attacks that killed IDF soldier Almog Shiloni in a stabbing attack in Tel Aviv, and Tekoa resident Dalia Lemkus near the Alon Shvut settlement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a special meeting with top security officials, urging increased cooperation.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen, Aharonovitch, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino and Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein were at the meeting.
On Tuesday, following the three-hour security cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, the prime minister detailed a series of new measures Israel will take to check the wave of violence that has spread from East Jerusalem and the West Bank to Arab Israeli cities.
“We are in the midst of a campaign of incitement and terrorism directed against the State of Israel and its citizens,” Netanyahu said. “This campaign has continued since the foundation of the state and even before then. We have defeated terrorism until today and we will defeat it this time as well.”
Netanyahu said Israel would deploy increased numbers of security personnel across the country, push for the demolition of terrorists’ homes, and adopt harsher measures against rioters, including fining the parents of children who throw stones.
“We will take a firm hand against those who throw stones, Molotov cocktails, and of course fireworks,” Netanyahu said. “We will outlaw organizations that are fomenting the situation in Jerusalem.”
Speaking at a press conference after the meeting, Netanyahu laid the blame for the recent spike in violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem at Abbas’s feet.
“Today, Abu Mazen [Abbas] has again proven that he is irresponsible,” he said. “Instead of calming the situation he is inflaming it. Instead of speaking the truth, he is disseminating lies to the effect that we intend, or are operating in some way, to change the status of the holy places – this is a gross lie.”
Netanyahu criticized the international community for remaining silent in the face of Abbas’s “wild incitement” and appealed to Israel’s Arab population to not be drawn further into the fracas.
“The sad thing is that the international community that rushes to condemn every balcony that we build in our capital city simply ignores this wild incitement of Abu Mazen’s and thus it encourages him to continue actions that could ignite the entire Middle East.”
“I would like to call on Israel’s Arab citizens: Do not be swept away by propaganda and incitement,” Netanyahu said. “Don’t be swept away by an inflamed minority. You are citizens with equal rights and equal obligations, and the first obligation of any citizen is to respect the law.”
The meeting served to update ministers concerning decisions adopted after consultations with security sources following the two terrorist attacks against Israelis carried out by Palestinians on Monday.
Israel’s senior ministers also discussed the recent rioting in Arab towns that began in protest of the police shooting and killing of an Arab man after he attacked a police vehicle with a knife Saturday in Kafr Kanna. Violent clashes have continued in the following days amid rioting in East Jerusalem that has raged unabated for the past four months, focusing on the Temple Mount.
Netanyahu has repeated several times in recent days that he does not intend to change the status quo at the site — the holiest in Judaism, and the third-holiest in Islam. Jews are allowed to visit but forbidden from praying at the contested site, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war, but where it allowed the Muslim Waqf authority to remain in administrative charge.
Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett have repeatedly said in past weeks that the PA president was fanning the flames of violence in the capital. Ya’alon on Tuesday said Abbas’s incitement had been a factor in an ongoing wave of terrorism, and urged the PA to help calm the situation.