Israeli security Cabinet meets to review policy at shrine
Israel’s security Cabinet met Sunday to review a decision to install metal detectors at a contested Jerusalem holy site, following a week of escalating tensions with the Muslim world, mass prayer protests and Israeli-Palestinian violence.
The ministers met amid mounting controversy at home, with some critics saying the government had acted without sufficiently considering the repercussions of introducing new security measures at the Holy Land’s most sensitive shrine and the epicenter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The metal detectors were installed a week ago, in response to an attack by Arab gunmen there who killed two Israeli policemen. Muslim religious leaders alleged Israel was trying to expand its control at the compound under the guise of security, a claim Israel denied.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, an outspoken supporter of the security measures, on Sunday for the first time raised the possibility that the metal detectors might be removed, provided an alternative is found.
He said security measures at the 37-acre esplanade, with eight entry gates for Muslim worshippers, were insufficient before the shooting attack.
“We need different security measures and means for checking (those entering) there,’’ he told Israel TV’s Channel 2.
Erdan said it is “certainly possible that the metal detectors will be removed’’ if police recommend a different security program, but added that he is currently “not aware of such a program.’’
Muslim leaders signalled earlier Sunday that they would reject any new proposal that leaves additional security measures in place.
The top Muslim cleric of Jerusalem, Mohammed Hussein, told Voice of Palestine radio that he demands a complete return to the security measures before the shooting attack.
In a statement Sunday, the Islamic institutions in Jerusalem, of which he is a part, said they “affirm the categorical rejection of the electronic gates and all the measures of occupation.’’
Disputes over the shrine, revered by Muslims and Jews, have set off major rounds of Israeli-Palestinian confrontations in the past.
New security cameras are installed at the entrance to the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, in Jerusalem’s Old City, Sunday. Israel installed the cameras Sunday at the entrance to a sensitive Jerusalem holy site, as officials began indicating it was considering “alternatives” to the metal detectors at the contested shrine that set off a weekend of violence and raised tensions in the region.