Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday rejected criticism of the Shin Bet security service by a political ally from his Likud party, who had called its agents “cowards” for pushing for the removal of new security measures placed at the Temple Mount.
“The Israel Security Agency [Shin Bet] is one of the best preventive security agencies in the world, that successfully leads the fight against terror. The lives of many Israelis have been saved because of the many operations it has carried out in recent years,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
“The views of the Shin Bet that were presented [relating to the Temple Mount] to the political leadership were based on intelligence, situational assessments and strategic analysis,” he said.
“The prime minister supports Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman and his agents and rejects the attacks on them.”
Although he did not mention coalition chairman David Bitan by name, Netanyahu’s statement backing the Shin Bet came after the top Likud MK called members of the security agency “cowards.”
“With all of [their] recommendations they [just] want to return home safely,” Bitan told Army Radio Thursday.
A spokesperson for the Shin Bet declined to comment.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog blasted Bitan’s remarks on Thursday and urged Netanyahu to apologize to the Shin Bet over the coalition chairman’s comments.
“Have you no shame?” Herzog tweeted.
Without mentioning Bitan by name, Likud MK Yehudah Glick also spoke out against attacks on the Shin Bet.
“I call on my friends to defend the honor of all the security services since without their efforts, dedication, determination, and wisdom we would be living here in day-in-day-out hell,” he tweeted.
The decision to place metal detectors and other security measures at the gates of the Temple Mount after the July 14 terror attack –in which three Arab Israelis shot dead two police officers with weapons smuggled into the compound — was opposed by the Shin Bet. The agency had warned the move could spark widespread unrest.
In response to the placement of the metal detectors, Muslim worshipers boycotted entering the Temple Mount until their removal.
In addition to daily protests outside the Old City, uproar over the move also prompted violent clashes between police and the demonstrators, with five Palestinians killed in clashes last weekend.
Tensions at the site were also cited by the Palestinian terrorist who last week stabbed to death three members of the Salomon family during Shabbat dinner at their home in the West Bank settlement of Halamish.
On Monday, Argaman was dispatched to Amman to help defuse a growing crisis with Jordan, which was fueled by both the tensions surrounding the Temple Mount and an incident at Israeli embassy compound Sunday, when an Israeli security guard shot dead two Jordanians after he was attacked by one of them with a screwdriver.
Later that evening, the security guard and the rest of the embassy staff were allowed to return to Israel, after Jordan had previously sought to interrogate the guard over the incident.
The next day, the metal detectors were also removed from the entrances to the Temple Mount, but the Prime Minister’s Office denied a Channel 2 report Monday evening that Amman had demanded the metal detectors be removed as a condition for securing the passage of the Israeli diplomatic staff.