Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel rejects France's draft for a UN Security Council statement calling for international observers to be deployed on the Temple Mount.
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"There is no mention of Palestinian incitement and Palestinian terrorism," Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. "We've already seen what happens in holy sites in the Middle East when extreme Muslims destroy each other's mosques, Christian sites, heritage sites, Jewish sites," he said.
"Israel is not the problem on the Temple Mount; it's the solution," Netanyahu added. "We maintain the status quo. We are the only ones doing so and we will keep doing it in a responsible and serious manner. There hasn't been any change in the status quo – except for an attempt by some people - organized by Islamic groups in Israel, as well as extremist elements - to place explosives in mosques and attack Jews from within the mosques," he said.
On Saturday, senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office said Israel, the U.S. and other countries are working against the French draft from, which one senior Israeli official called "completely absurd."
According to the official, Netanyahu instructed National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen and the Foreign Ministry to protest the biased and absurd phrasing of the draft to France.
"We expect the French to condemn the Waqf's incompetence on the Temple Mount," the official said, referring to the Muslim religious trust, which runs the site. "Those who brought in bombs and fired firecrackers were the Palestinians, who turned the Temple Mount to a terrorist storeroom and it is they who tried by that to change the status quo."
France is pushing for a presidential statement on behalf of the UN Security Council that calls for the deployment of international observers to Jerusalem's holy sites, notably the Temple Mount, to ensure the status quo is maintained, "Le Figaro" reported on Saturday, citing French diplomats.
The Israeli official stressed that Israel is safeguarding the status quo and is committed to it. According to him, Jews are allowed to visit the site only according the status quo. He added that according to the 1949 armistice agreement, Jewish access to the Temple Mount was internationally guaranteed. "This right wasn't realized until 1967," the official said. "Israel is the one keeping the visits to the Temple Mount free. The torching of Joseph's Tomb shows what would have happened to the holy sites if they weren't under Israel's control. Exactly what is happening in Palmyra in Syria and in Iraq."
The presidential statement does not constitute a binding Security Council resolution, only serving as a statement of intent. 15 members of the UN Security Council need to consent in order for a presidential statement to be published. It remains unclear if France has managed to achieve such consensus.
On Wednesday, Palestinian ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour called on the Security Council to adopt a resolution guaranteeing the safety and protection of Palestinians and Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem, similar to Resolution 904 adopted after the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in 1994, which saw international monitors deployed in Hebron.
Israel's new ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said on Friday that Israel objects to any international involvement or oversight on the Temple Mount since it would violate the status quo. In light of Israel's position, it's hard to see how the U.S. could support the call for deploying international observers on the Temple Mount, even if this is only a declarative step.