TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday defended his decision to remove metal detectors from the entrance to the Temple Mount following Muslim unrest, saying it was not an easy decision but that it was in the best interests of Israeli national security.
Additional security measures, including metal detectors, were first installed following a July 14 terror attack in which Arab gunmen smuggled weapons onto the holy site and shot and killed two Israeli police officers. The measures sparked outrage throughout the Arab and Muslim world, which accused Israel of trying to control the holy site. The Palestinian leadership urged Muslims to take part in several Days of Rage and to riot in the streets of Jerusalem and the West Bank.
“I am attentive to public feeling,” Netanyahu said, in reference to the fact that the majority of Israelis thought the prime minister was “capitulating” to Arab hostility by rolling back the security measures. “With that, as the prime minister of Israel, as the one who carries on his shoulders the responsibility for the security of Israel — I must make decisions coolly and judiciously. I do that out of a view of the big picture, a wide view of the challenges and threats that are facing us. Some of them are not known to the the public and as is the nature of things I can’t go into details.”
Israeli police said the metal detectors were needed because guns were smuggled into the site and the assailants emerged from it to carry out the attack.
A poll conducted after the removal found 77 percent of Israelis thought the move was a sign of surrender.
Last Tuesday, Israel removed the metal detectors in lieu of “security measures based on advanced technologies.” However, those too were removed Thursday morning and Palestinians hailed a victory by converging on the Temple Mount for afternoon prayers after having boycotted the site for 12 days.
As it stands now, the security measures on the Mount have returned to the way they were before the July 14 attack. However, Netanyahu said that the security cabinet approved an NIS 100 million budget to bolster security on the holy site and in the Old City as a whole.
“In recent days I ordered an increase in the security forces at the Temple Mount and in the Old City, in order to prevent terror attacks and rioting and also to act firmly against lawbreakers,” he said.
Netanyahu also warned Israel’s enemies that “the IDF, the Shin Bet and the Israel Police are ready to act with full force against all those who try to harm our citizens, our soldiers and our police. That is how we have acted in the past and that is how we will act in the future.”