Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday defended his decision to remove controversial security measures at the Temple Mount, saying it was not an easy choice and vowing to push ahead with a plan to boost other security measures at the sensitive holy site.
In comments made before the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said he had ordered the measures rolled back over concern for Israel’s overall security, after weeks of violent protests by Palestinians boycotting the site.
Polls showed much of the public did not support the decision to remove the measures, which were put in place after a deadly terrorist attack carried out with guns smuggled onto the Temple Mount, and many saw it as a “capitulation” to Muslim authorities seeking to exert control over the flashpoint Jerusalem compound.
“I am attentive to public feeling,” Netanyahu said, referring to Israeli outrage over the removal of the detectors. “With that, as the prime minister of Israel, as the one who carries on his shoulders the responsibility for the security of Israel — I must make decisions coolly and judiciously. I do that out of a view of the big picture, a wide view of the challenges and threats that are facing us. Some of them are not known to the the public and as is the nature of things I can’t go into details.”
While the arrangements at the Temple Mount have gone back to the way they were before the July 14 attack — as demanded by Palestinians and officials from Jordan’s Waqf Islamic trust, which administers the site — Netanyahu said that he had already ordered a boost in the security presence in the Old City and that the cabinet had approved a NIS 100 million budget to finance the new measures including the purchase of unspecified new equipment.
“In recent days I ordered an increase in the security forces at the Temple Mount and in the Old City, in order to prevent terror attacks and rioting and also to act firmly against lawbreakers,” he said.
The security cabinet said last Tuesday it would replace the metal detectors with “advanced technologies,” referring reportedly to cameras that can detect hidden objects, but said the process could take up to six months.
Waqf officials have already said that they would not accept the installation of the new cameras.
After thanking the security forces for their service, Netanyahu also issued a warning “to our enemies on all fronts: the IDF, the Shin Bet, and the Israel Police are ready to act with full force against all those who try to harm our citizens, our soldiers and and our police. That is how we have acted in the past and that is how we will act in the future.”