Take Away Temple Mount Metal Detectors, ex-Israeli Security Chief Urges

In the name of Mideast peace, former head of Shin Bet Yoram Cohen says other solutions must be found to stem violence at flashpoint Jerusalem holy site

Palestinians praying in front of Israeli policemen and newly installed metal detectors at an entrance to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, July 16, 2017.
RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS

For the sake of peace in the Middle East, Israel must find an alternative to placing metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, says Yoram Cohen, former head of the Shin Bet security service.

In a radio interview on Monday, Cohen said that Israel’s image might indeed be damaged if it backtracks on its decision last week to install the detectors at the volatile site. But maintaining regional quiet is more important, he added, and the risk of further violence and deterioration is not worth it.

After the attack on the Temple Mount on July 14, in which two Israeli Border Policemen were killed by three men from the Arab Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm, installing the detectors was the right thing to do, Cohen said. But such a measure has to be temporary, he added, and under the circumstances, alternatives need to be found to secure the area – even if they are "not of the same intensity or quality."

“I am aware that [removing the detectors] will be depicted as diminishment of sovereignty, or Israeli capitulation, and that will certainly carry a price,” Cohen said. “The question is what other prices we could pay. To us, as a state, strategically speaking, maintaining the quiet is of paramount importance.”

Yoram Cohen, while serving as chief of Israel's Shin Bet security service, in 2014.

Removing the devices would ease tensions and also reduce violent incidents, which are “unfortunately leading many people, including among Israeli Arabs and in the Palestinian community, to take advantage of the situation to incite,” he said.

Israel’s image will be dented, Cohen admitted, “But we have to take the broad view. Is it a good thing to be right but to pay with escalation in Judea and Samaria, the Gaza Strip and maybe even Jordan? We don’t want to go there,” he said.

The reference to Jordan related to an incident Sunday in Amman, in which a security guard at the Israeli Embassy in Amman shot dead a Jordanian teen who tried to stab him. Another Jordanian was also killed in the incident.

The Israeli security officer was lightly injured by a 17-year-old carpenter, Mohammed al-Juoda, who was installing furniture in his apartment. The guard shot the attacker dead, and the owner of the apartment in which the guard resides was also accidentally injured during the incident, and later died of his wounds.

Israeli security sources suggested Monday that Juoda had been inspired to attack by the events surrounding Temple Mount.

Also on Sunday, about 30 Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli security forces in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.