Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount have to be escorted by police due to “provocations” by Jewish extremists, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich said Wednesday. However, the atmosphere at the contested Jerusalem holy site is much calmer today than it was weeks ago, when Muslim concern over alleged Israeli plans to hurt the site was among the main catalysts for the current wave of terror.
“The Temple Mount is a very, very complex story. It has to be said: There is no equality on the Temple Mount, to the disadvantage of the Jews, in a noticeable way,” Alsheich told a group of Israeli diplomats currently in Israel during a closed briefing at the capital’s Museum of Islamic Art.
Currently, when Jews and other non-Muslims ascend to the Temple Mount they can only do so in groups and with a police escort. This, Alsheich said, is because of the actions of small groups of hard-line activists.
“Still, unfortunately, there are Jews who commit provocations on the Temple Mount and that hurts other Jews,” he continued. “If there were no provocations, then Jews could go up without [police] escort.”
Responding to a question from an Israeli ambassador, Alsheich said the police have been making great efforts to find a “solution” for Jews who want to visit the Temple Mount.
The Temple Mount, and Palestinians’ belief that the Israeli government was attempting to “conquer” it, was an oft-cited reason given by Palestinian attackers for their actions in the earlier days of the ongoing terror wave.
In November, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated those accusations, telling the UN that Israel had condoned Jewish extremists’ actions “aimed at changing the historic status quo at Al-Haram Al-Sharif [the Temple Mount] and Al-Aqsa Mosque that existed before the year 1967 and thereafter.”
Many Palestinians who carried out attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers had earlier written on social media or spoken about Israel taking over the site.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other government officials have repeatedly denied that Israel intended to alter the agreements made concerning the Temple Mount. “Israel reaffirms its commitment to upholding unchanged the status quo of the Temple Mount, in word and in practice,” he said in a statement in October.
Throughout December and January, both the rhetoric surrounding the Temple Mount and the violent conflicts between Muslims and Israel Police officers at the site dropped off, as police limited access to the holy site to only older Muslim worshipers and cracked down on Jewish and non-Muslim visitors’ violations on the Temple Mount.
“The situation is much better today than it was a few months ago,” Alsheich told the diplomats.