Muslim "extremists” are “spreading lies” by alleging that Israel is digging underneath the Temple Mount to cause the collapse of the mosques, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Cabinet Monday morning.
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The Arab world, including the Palestinian Authority, has increasingly accused Israel of the same charges over the past several years, and many Muslim and Arab leaders have told the Arab world that the Temples never existed.
However, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statements were referencing to the Islamic Movement. The group’s northern branch leader, Sheikh Raad Salah, was arrested last week for incitement, which police said was behind the Arab riots that wounded policemen and interrupted Jewish prayers at the Western Wall (Kotel).
Muslim clerics also have alleged that Jews are preparing to take over the Temple Mount, where the First and Second Temples stood, and Salah charged that Jews were preparing to build a synagogue on the site, although the Israeli Rabbinate has ruled that Jews may not ascend to the site.
Several national religious and other rabbis allow Jews to ascend to certain parts of the Temple Mount but only if they have immersed in a ritual bath (mikveh). Muslim authorities, backed by Israeli police, do not allow Jews to pray or carry a prayer book when visiting.
Jordan threatened on Monday that it would recall its ambassador in Israel if police "burst into" mosques on the Temple Mount. The Jordanian embassy was behind a deal that resulted in Israeli police allowing Muslims, who had holed themselves up in a mosque on the site, to leave without being arrested for disturbing the peace and violating police orders.
Prime Minister Netanyahu used the Cabinet meeting Monday as a forum to address the Arab community. "You are citizens with equal rights; we want to live together in coexistence and bring our children prosperity,” he stated.
He noted that the majority of Arabs did not join the riots and honored Israeli restrictions, which for several days limited entrance to Muslim women and to men over the age of 50. Police also prohibited Jews and tourists from visiting there for several days.