Israel has decided to turn the Temple Mount compound into “a sterile area,” a senior Likud MK said Tuesday, and this will happen even though it has removed metal detector gates from the site.
Avi Dichter, who heads the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and is a former chief of the Shin Bet security agency, said “the most important decision that was taken” by the Israeli government in the wake of the July 14 terror attack outside the site, “although perhaps not using the words that I will use, was to turn the Temple Mount into a sterile area — with all that this entails.”
Three Arab Israelis killed two Israeli police officers in that attack, using guns that an accomplice had smuggled into the holy site for them.
The term “sterile area” is generally applied to areas rendered clear of and protected from any weaponry, and is often used in the context of parts of airports subjected to the most rigorous security.
The envisaged sterile area, Dichter said in a Channel 2 interview, would “ensure that the Temple Mount not become the weapons store of Palestinian terrorists.”
He elaborated: “To turn it into a sterile area, various actions are required — and of course technological means.”
He said the government had installed metal detectors as the fast route to hermetic security, and noted that at Mecca, and at “every hotel in Jordan or Cairo,” such security measures are routine.
But metal detectors, he said, “are just one tool. Cameras are another.” And, he stressed, “there are a lot of proven tools.
Israel, he said, “has a lot of experience in creating sterile zones.” The Temple Mount “will become a sterile zone — whether with metal detectors or cameras or other means,” he predicted.
Responding to comments from a leader of Israel’s Islamic Movement to the effect that no new security precautions would be acceptable at the Mount, Dichter said this exemplified the opposition to Israeli sovereignty of any kind anywhere at the Mount. But Israel would not relinquish control, he vowed — “not this generation nor the next generation. The Temple Mount is under Israeli sovereignty, period.”
Israel has claimed sovereignty in the Old City since capturing it in the 1967 Six Day War. It agreed to let the Jordanian Waqf continue to administer the Mount, which is Judaism’s holiest place as the site of the biblical temples, and hallowed by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and home to Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest shrine. Jews are allowed to visit but not to pray there.