Monday, July 24, 2017

Israel To Remove Metal Detectors At Temple Mount, To Replace With "Advanced Technologies'

Israeli cabinet decides to remove metal detectors from Temple Mount

Israel ministers overnight Tuesday decided that the metal detectors set up outside the Temple Mount in Jerusalem — in the wake of a terror attack at the holy site in which two Israeli police officers were killed — would be removed, and replaced with security measures based on “advanced technologies.”

The Prime Minister’s Office said the security cabinet “accepted the recommendation of all of the security bodies to incorporate security measures based on advanced technologies (‘smart checks’) and other measures instead of metal detectors in order to ensure the security of visitors and worshippers in the Old City and on the Temple Mount.”

Israeli media reported earlier Monday that high-resolution cameras capable of detecting hidden objects would be the alternative.

The Prime Minister’s Office said the implementation of the plan would take up to six months and that a budget of up to NIS 100 million was allocated for the measures, based on a plan to be presented by the Public Security Ministry.

The government said police units would meanwhile be reinforced in and around the site as necessary to ensure security. Earlier Monday Associated Press footage showed heavy machinery and workers heading to the entrance of the site.

As word spread of the decision, a few hundred Palestinians gathered to celebrate at Lions Gate, near an entrance to the Temple Mount. One person set off a firework, prompting Israeli police to raid and disperse them using sound grenades. Israeli media reported clashes between the Palestinians and police.

The cabinet decision came hours after Israel and Jordan ended a diplomatic stand-off over the return of Israeli embassy staff from Amman following an attack Sunday at the mission in which two Jordanian nationals were killed, including an assailant.

The security cabinet met late Monday for the third time in five days to deal with the Temple Mount crisis amid signs the controversial metal detectors installed at the site 10 days ago will be removed and replaced with less visible cameras able to detect weapons and explosives.

This technological solution is the result of intensive discussions Israel Police held over the past week with leading security firms to find an alternative to the metal detectors, which enraged the Palestinians and part of the Muslim world and threatened to trigger a new round of violence.

The technology – which will cost in the hundreds of millions of shekels – also reportedly includes face-identification software.

Israel Police was also expected to present the security cabinet with a plan to significantly increase the number of officers in the Old City and around the Temple Mount.

Prior to the meeting, Netanyahu spoke with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in an effort to find a way out of the crisis.

Jordan administers the site through the Wakf.

The Royal Hashemite Court issued a statement saying Abdullah “stressed the need to find an immediate solution and remove the causes of the ongoing crisis.”

The statement said Abdullah reiterated “the necessity of removing the measures adopted by the Israeli side since the recent crisis broke out and the importance of agreeing on measures to prevent the recurrence of such escalation in the future, in a manner that ensures respect for the historical and legal situation in the Holy Mosque.”

The security cabinet met Sunday evening as well, for some six hours, but failed to come to a decision on the metal detectors.

While Netanyahu’s decision to install the metal detectors has been widely criticized, and differences of opinion on the matter by the various security organizations – the IDF, Shin Bet and Israel Police – have been publicly aired, Netanyahu received a vote of confidence from his partners on the Right before the security cabinet meeting.

“The government of Israel is acting with responsibility, unity and thoughtfulness in the face of a complicated diplomatic and security situation,” said Bayit Yehudi head Naftali Bennett at the start of his party’s weekly faction meeting.

“In contrast to the claims from the opposition benches, the decisions are being made in an orderly, rational and responsible manner and I fully back the prime minister, Israel Police and all the security forces,” he said.

“As a rule,” Bennett added, “at times of a security challenge, we must work together and prevent a discourse of mutual blame-games. This is why in the diplomatic and security discussions I made clear my position that decisions should be made unanimously and with wide support, in the [security] cabinet, as well, and I’m happy the ministers who sit on the cabinet with me adopted this recommendation.”

Meanwhile, in New York, UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov warned that a solution to the crisis was needed before this week’s Friday prayers.

“It is extremely important that a solution to the current crisis be found by Friday,” he told reporters after briefing the UN Security Council behind closed doors. “The dangers on the ground will escalate if we go through another cycle of Friday prayer without a resolution to this current crisis.”

The lack of a solution, he said, could have “potential catastrophic costs well beyond the walls of the Old City.”

No comments: