Israel Police dismantled metal detectors and security cameras at the entrances to the Temple Mount compound overnight between Monday, July 24 and Tuesday, July 25, less than two weeks after they had been placed there in the wake of the July 14 murder of two Israeli policeman adjacent to the site.
The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying that the Security Cabinet had “accepted the recommendation of all the security bodies to incorporate security measures based on advanced technologies and other measures instead of metal detectors in order to ensure the security of visitors and worshippers in the Old City and on the Temple Mount.”
The advanced technologies are believed to include thermal cameras and face recognition.
The Security Cabinet allocated a budget of up to 100 million shekels to implement the plan over a time frame of up to six months.
The statement said that until the plan was implemented the police presence on the Mount would be beefed up. Later in the day, it transpired that security cameras installed three days earlier would also be removed.
The stationing of the metal detectors led to widespread protests and Muslims refused to pass through them on the way to the mosques on the site, instead holding mass prayers outside the gates.
Daily clashes ensued between police and rioters in east Jerusalem.
Clashes also took place throughout Judea and Samaria.
Four Palestinians were killed in the riots, one when an explosive device he was attempting to throw at security forces blew up in his own hands.
On Friday, July 21, a Palestinian entered a home in the community of Neve Tzuf and massacred three members of the Salomon family, claiming that he was reacting to the “defilement” of the mosques. [Story, page 1.]
On Sunday, July 23, a Palestinian stabbed a man in Petah Tikvah, saying he had done it “for Al-Aqsa.”
Muslims continued to boycott the al-Aqsa Mosque Tuesday, as Palestinian Authority and Wakf officials said that Israel’s removal of metal detectors and security cameras from entrances to the Temple Mount were not sufficient to end the standoff at the holy site.
Both groups said they demanded a return to the status quo as it existed at the site before three Israeli Arabs emerged from the site and murdered two Israeli policemen on July 14.
Jerusalem Mufti Mohammed Hussein said in a statement that Islamic officials would not consider the issue closed until Muslims had the right to enter the al-Aqsa compound unfettered by any Israeli security measures, and demanded a commission of inquiry to study “Israeli aggressions” on the Temple Mount.
“Israel’s actions at al-Aqsa Mosque are intended to serve Israel’s political needs, under the guise of security,” Fatah spokesman Nabil Shaath told Israeli media.
Even before the current crisis, Abbas and the PA were deeply unpopular amongst Palestinians, both for maintaining security collaboration with Israel and for failing to provide a political outlook.
The Wakf’s successful demand for Israel to abandon security demands following a terror attack may delegitimize the PA even further in the eyes of many Palestinians.
“The Wakf has emerged from this as an authentic Jerusalemite leadership group, and the strongest one,” said Eran Tzidkiyahu, a licensed tour guide who specializes in Jerusalem and who has served as a special adviser to various religious leaders, including the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, the Heads of the Local Churches of the Holy Land, the PA Ministry of Wakf and Religious Affairs.
“If we assume that the metal detectors were removed as part of a deal between Jordan’s King Abdullah, who ‘officially’ controls the Temple Mount, and Prime Minister Netanyahu, then we can only draw one of two conclusions:
“Either the Wakf’s ongoing refusal to end the crisis has Abdullah’s stamp of approval, or the Wakf is trying to capitalize on its newfound and unexpected power to develop its own positions in order to poke its finger simultaneously in the eyes of both the King and the Palestinian Authority. The second scenario seems likely to me,” Tzidkiyahu said.
In Israel, Arab members of Knesset declared “victory” in response to Israel reversing security measures at the Temple Mount, and said their struggle for control over the compound also extends to the Western Wall.
MK Taleb Abu Arar (Joint List) stressed that “Jews have no rights at al-Aqsa Mosque,” and added that Muslims’ fight against Israel would continue, regardless of the cabinet decision to remove metal detectors from the entrances to the Temple Mount compound.
He also called the Western Wall occupied territory, and said that “Muslims demand [it] be returned to our sovereignty.”
MK Masud Ganaim (Joint List) said the decision to remove the metal detectors, placed at the site following the murder of two policemen on July 14, was a “victory for the Palestinian public’s struggle and the demonstrations.
“It was a victory for the steadfast religious leadership and a victory for the political leadership in Jerusalem,” Ganaim said.
Ganaim’s declaration of victory closely matched views on the street in Palestinian cities in the West Bank.