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Netanyahu reassures Jordan, neighbours no change in Temple Mount status quo

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday publicly reiterated that there would be no change in the status quo at the volatile Temple Mount. Meanwhile, Israel’s security cabinet approved new measures to combat rock and firebomb attacks.

Last week saw serious clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, a significant flashpoint. Having captured Jerusalem’s Old City during the 1967 Six Day War, Israel placed administration of the Temple Mount under the joint authority of Jordan’s government and the Jerusalem-based Islamic Waqf religious council. Although Jews are permitted to visit the site in small groups, they are not allowed to pray there for fear of subsequent violence.

However, Jordan’s King Abdullah said last week that he was “very concerned and angered with the recent escalations,” at the site and suggested that continued violence “will affect the relationship between Jordan and Israel.” Kuwaiti daily Al-Jarida reported yesterday that Abdullah had subsequently refused to meet with or speak to Netanyahu.

In a statement yesterday, Netanyahu reassured that, “We are preserving the status quo … We are not violating it and all comments that we intend to harm Muslim holy sites are completely baseless.” Netanyahu also took aim at the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) “wild incitement” on the issue. Last week, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said that, “Each drop of blood that was spilled in Jerusalem is pure blood.”

Meanwhile, in response to the backdrop of violence at both the Temple Mount and more widely in Jerusalem and the West Bank, Israel’s security cabinet yesterday unanimously approved a series of new measures to combat rock and firebomb throwing, which has become an almost daily occurrence in recent weeks. The measures include a four-year mandatory minimum sentence and a change in the rules of engagement for servicemen facing such incidents. Netanyahu commented, “We intend to change the norm that has taken root here where it is possible to throw lethal and murderous objects in Israel without an answer or impediment.”