Netanyahu calls for calm, assures no change to Temple Mount status quo

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday spoke with Jordan’s King Abdullah and assured him that he will maintain the status quo on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, following months of unrest and violence.

For the second time in two weeks, a local Palestinian on Wednesday rammed a vehicle into a crowd of commuters in Jerusalem killing Israelis. Extreme tension and unrest in the city persists with clashes between local youths and security forces in Arab neighbourhoods taking place daily. The Temple Mount, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims has been a major flashpoint and was briefly closed this week after Israeli forces reached the al-Aqsa Mosque itself to quell a crowd hurling rocks and fireworks. Jordan subsequently recalled its ambassador in protest at Israel’s actions.

Yesterday, Netanyahu, reportedly on his initiative, spoke to Jordan’s King Abdullah. Netanyahu commented, “We agreed that we’ll make every effort to calm the situation,” and that specifically, “I explained… that we’re keeping the status quo on the Temple Mount.” Although Jews are permitted to visit the site in small groups, they are not allowed to pray there for fear of subsequent violence.

Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev appeared to distance the Prime Minister from the actions of some right-wing parliamentarians, including from his own Likud Party, who have recently visited the Temple Mount and support changing the status quo. Regev said, “Whoever expresses a different opinion is presenting a personal view and not the policy of the Government.”

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman also criticised the Likud and Jewish Home MKs in question, saying they “only know how to light a flame and to exploit a situation for their own political gains.” He added, “What needs to happen now… is for calm to be restored.”

However, Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely, who herself this week visited the Temple Mount insisted “It is not acceptable that representatives of the Jewish majority in Israel agree to… discrimination in the holiest place for the Jewish people.”

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