Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel guards and protects Islamic sites better than the Arab countries do. In a speech before the 37th Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, Netanyahu denounced the claim that Israel seeks to destroy the Al Aqsa mosque.
He said that Israel has no intention of changing the status quo – "and this is despite the fact that the Temple Mount is our sacred location, long before Islam. But we will not change the status quo – this is a lie."
"This lie is 100 years old already," he said. "But the Temple Mount stands, the Al Aqsa mosque stands. But the lie also continues to stand."
"Israel is the only country in the Middle East that protects its mosques," he added, and noted that numerous Muslim holy sites have been "blown to smithereens" by Muslims in the current internecine warfare in the Arab world.
Netanyahu also denied that there has been a surge in construction of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. The opposite is true, he said – there has been a downward turn in construction – and "there are people who will not like to hear these statistics."
He said that in his first term as prime minister, the rate of housing construction in Judea and Samaria was 3,000 per year. In Ehud Barak's single year as prime minister it was 5,000. Under Ariel Sharon it was at 1,900, and under Ehud Olmert it was 1,700. It is now at 1,500 per year, he said. "Some surge."
"Despite our efforts for peace and tranquility," he said, "we are now in the midst of a campaign, an assault, not the first one, that seeks to murder Israelis wherever they are, and this campaign is incorporating medieval ideology with modern technology. It's a unique combination…
"We know for example that the various attackers are using their Facebook pages to indicate what they are, to absorb messages of incitement. I appreciate the fact that Facebook is trying to find a balance between free speech and the safety of the public. I think that warrants special attention in this case.
"We're fighting not only a campaign of physical assault on the Jewish state. But the physical assault on the Jews is always preceded and accompanied by an assault on the truth – a campaign of defamation and slander."
Netanyahu proceeded to list the ten big lies that are being propagated against Israel, the first of which is that "Israel is trying to change the status quo on the Temple Mount."