(Andrew Friedman/TPS) Islamic officials in Jerusalem said mosques around the city would be closed on Friday, and called on Muslims to hold Friday prayers around the perimeter of the Temple Mount compound to protest security measures at the site.
The call comes on the heels of a declaration of Wednesday’s Day of Rage by the Fatah movement, headed by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, and will likely serve to ramp up tensions around the Mount, known in Arabic as the Noble Sanctuary, ahead of noontime prayers on the Muslim day of rest.
It also followed a decision earlier Wednesday by Jerusalem Police Chief Yoram Halevi to close the Mount to Jews after expelling a group of yeshiva students for violating visitation regulations at the site. The site was re-opened to Jews in the afternoon.
Islamic officials and Arab civic officials continued to place the blame for the conflict squarely on the shoulders of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, saying the decision to install metal detectors around Al-Aqsa Mosque was a strictly political one. They said that representatives of the Arab sector in Israel would not submit to the new security measures, and added that they would not cooperate with police in order to resolve the standoff.
Rather, they called on Netanyahu to remove the metal detectors, calling them “collective punishment” and a violation of religious freedom. “The metal detectors must be removed immediately,” said MKs Ahmed Tibi and Osama Sa’adi (Joint List) in a statement. “We want peace, not war. We call on Prime Minister Netanyahu to rescind the decision to establish new security procedures.”
But domestic politics may complicate that possibility for Netanyahu. Right-wing members of his governing coalition have praised the security measures and stressed that they were introduced only after the murder last Friday of two police officers, Ha’il Satawi and Kamil Shnaan, by Israeli Arabs who emerged from inside the compound to stage the attack.
“I’m reading in the international press about heavy pressure leveled at Prime Minister Netanyahu to give up our security needs on Temple Mount and cancel the metal detectors placed at the entrance, just as there are metal detectors at the Kotel and in Mecca,” said Education Minister Naftali Bennett.
“From here, the Israeli Knesset, I strengthen PM Netanyahu and am convinced he will stand strong, not give in or cave to the international pressure to cancel Israel’s security needs on the Temple Mount,” Bennett added.