Netanyahu: Altering Temple Mount Status Quo Could Damage Israel's Ties With Arab States

Netanyahu says he believes security measures on Temple Mount, such as placing new cameras and installing metal detectors, must be enhanced to prevent future attacks

Israeli forces and Muslim worshipers at the entrance to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, July 16, 2017.
Olivier Fitoussi

PARIS – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he objects to any change in the status quo on the Temple Mount, like giving Jews permission to pray at the holy site, since that could exacerbate the security situation and undermine the increasingly warm relations between Israel and the Sunni Arab nations.

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“Changing the status quo on the Temple Mount would be a wrong move,” he told reporters during a visit to Paris. “It would lead to unforeseeable consequences in the world and regional order. We’ve succeeded in isolating the issue of religious warfare in the region as best we could and there are clear security considerations that require the preservation of the status quo. 

“Moreover, we are succeeding in building stronger ties with the countries in the region and even bringing about encouraging changes in public opinion in the Arab world toward Israel, and changing the status-quo on the Temple Mount would undermine all that,” he said.

Palestinians argue to Israeli security forces as they try to carry a casket into the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, July 16, 2017.
AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS

Netanyahu noted, however, that he believes that security measures must be enhanced on the Temple Mount to prevent attacks of the type that took place Friday, when three assailants shot and killed two policemen. He said that positioning cameras outside the Temple Mount compound to follow what is going on inside it, and installing metal detectors at the entrances to the compound are required measures. “Without this we would find ourselves with another terror attack,” he said. 

Israeli authorities had closed access to the compound in wake of Friday's attack. Police sought to reopen the Temple Mount on Sunday afternoon but the Waqf, the Muslim authority that administers the site, refused to unlock the gates in protest at metal detectors installed there on Sunday morning.

Waqf officials claimed that the metal detectors, which were installed at two gates to the compound on Sunday morning, are a violation of the status quo at the site, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims. Access to Jerusalem's entire Old City was allowed on Sunday only to tourists, as well as Jews and Palestinians who live in the Old City. Most of the stores in the Muslim Quarter were closed, as were many of the stores in the main business district of East Jerusalem.

According to the police, they planned initially to open only two of the Temple Mount's nine gates to Muslim visitors, and only Palestinian residents of Jerusalem would be allowed to enter. Despite earlier plans, the police said Jews will not be allowed on the Mount at all on Sunday.