High Alert in Jerusalem as Arab Leadership Plans More Rioting

High alert was declared on the Temple Mount, as the government approved the continuation of renovation work at the Rambam Gate (Mughrabi Gate). Dichter: Arab MKs don't even know where the gate is.

Hillel Fendel and Gil Ronen, | updated: 08:08

Today's Cabinet vote to approve the continued works was passed with no 'nay' votes, though three ministers abstained: Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Education Minister Yuli Tamir, and newly-appointed Arab minister Rhaleb Majadle.

Peretz said that there is "no question" regarding Israel's sovereignty in the area, and that it would be appropriate to act "with restraint" in this regard.

In actuality, however, there is a question in this regard. Supreme Supervision Committee of Israel's Arabs announced Saturday that it does not recognize Israel's sovereignty over the site of the Al-Aksa mosque, and sees the eastern neighborhoods of Jerusalem as occupied territory. The committee, which includes representatives from most factions and organizations in the Israeli Arab sector, held a special session to discuss the renovation work being done near the Rambam Gate.

Minister Peretz claimed at today's Cabinet meeting that he did not know in advance that the Rambam Gate was to be refurbished. Public Security Minister Avi Dichter of the Kadima Party implied that this was an untruth, and said that on January 21, a preliminary meeting on the issue was held, with the participation of IDF and police representatives.

Peretz was attacked from other quarters as well. Ministers Avigdor Lieberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) and Ze'ev Boim (Kadima) castigated Peretz for running to the press with his concerns over the matter, instead of directly to Prime Minister Olmert.

Ministers from both Kadima (Sha'ul Mofaz) and Labor (Binyamin Ben-Eliezer) said that the tensions between Olmert and Peretz are not called for and harmful. "A Prime Minister and a defense minister must talk to each other," Mofaz said, while Ben-Eliezer said that the competition between them "increases the lack of public trust in the political echelons."

Outside the government, MK Avshalom Vilan (Meretz) also said that the Olmert-Peretz feuding was dangerous for Israel.

The excavations in question are being carried out under the walkway leading up to the Temple Mount from the Western Wal plaza, in preparation for the refurbishing and possible relocation of the entrance and walkway. The Arabs have claimed that Israel is attempting to undermine the entire Temple Mount, and have called for massive and active resistance.

Minister Dichter, a former head of Israel's Shabak (General Security Service), toured the area this morning, and ridiculed the Arab claims. "The Temple Mount is not being touched," he said. "Some Israeli-Arabs, including Knesset Members, don't even know that the Mughrabi Gate is outside the Temple Mount altogether."

Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky said he was "worried about the city's situation and hoped there would not be further deterioration," a reference to the riots by Muslim worshippers Friday at the nearby Al-Aksa mosque. Lupoliansky invited the head of the Muslim Waqf, Adnan Husseini, to meet with him and try to defuse the tension.

Sheikh Raad Salah, who heads the northern wing of the Islamic Movement, said that he intends to erect a protest tent near the Old City, which he is currently forbidden from entering by virtue of a restraining order.

The Israeli-Arab group decided at Saturday’s meeting to organize a demonstration at the Al Aksa mosque on the Temple Mount next week. It was also decided that Israeli-Arab leaders would hold a protest session Monday in front of the Rambam Gate and meet with the Muslim Waqf officials responsible for the mosque.

The committee called upon Arab schools to organize field trips for children to Al Aksa, so they can "be appraised of the situation," and to set aside two hours of the weekly school schedule for discussing the matter. Additional activities are planned in Arab villages and cities throughout Israel.

The committee intends to send letters to foreign embassies demanding they intercede with Israel regarding the work being done at Rambam Gate. It also intends to meet regularly to follow up on the situation at the gate.

The committee’s leader, Sheikh Raad Salah, charged that "the Zionist establishment is carrying out terrorist acts in Al Aksa." Committee member Knesset Member Hana Sweid also claimed that the Olmert government is trying to "Judaize" the areas adjacent to Al Aksa by buying land and apartments, and building a synagogue.



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