Behind the Scenes

The Row at the Late-night Cabinet Meeting: To Remove Security Cameras Too?

Ministers Bennett, Elkin argue with Netanyahu: Calm is possible even without returning to the full status quo; Shin Bet, IDF differ with police over dismantling of cameras

Dismantling the metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem Monday night.
AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS

During the security cabinet meeting on Monday night, an argument developed between a number of ministers on one side, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel Defense Forces officers and Shin Bet security service officials on the other – over the question of whether to remove the cameras installed on the Temple Mount in recent days, too, along with the metal detectors at the entrances to the Mount.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin tried to convince the other ministers to agree to a compromise in which the metal detectors would be removed but the cameras would remain in place.

Israel Police representatives made it clear to the members of the security cabinet that leaving the cameras would not damage the efforts to calm things down, and even if the Waqf objects it would not lead to mass protests and would not prevent the renewal of Muslim worship on the Temple Mount, said a person who participated in the meeting, but asked to remain anonymous because the content of the meeting was classified as top secret.  

At the same time, IDF and Shin Bet representatives recommended removing the cameras along with the metal detectors, saying that until the situation returned to the status quo ante – the way it was before the terrorist attack in which two Israeli  police officers were murdered a week and a half ago – the Waqf, Palestinians and Jordanians would continue to claim the status quo on the Mount was still being violated and things would not calm down.

Bennett, Shaked and Elkin said that if Israel insisted, the Palestinians would agree to return to prayers on the Mount despite their objections to the cameras, and the three ministers tried to reach a consensus among the security cabinet for their proposal. But Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan accepted the view that at this stage the cameras should be removed along with the metal detectors.  At the same the security forces on the Old City will be reinforced until the new “smart security checks” plan is implemented for those entering the Temple Mount. The new plan is expected to take at least six months to implement.

Netanyahu managed to enlist a majority of the security cabinet in favor of this plan, and Bennett, Shaked and Elkin voted against it.