JERUSALEM, Israel – Israel's decision to remove the recently installed metal detectors and security cameras at the Lion's Gate entrance to the Temple Mount has generated concern it will be interpreted as giving into terror elements.
On July 14, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu authorized the temporary closure of the Temple Mount to investigate an early morning shooting attack in which two Israeli border police officers were gunned down and a third injured. The three terrorists who carried out the attack came from the northern Israeli city of Um al-Fahm and stored their weapons in the al-Aksa Mosque – reportedly with the help of a Muslim Wakf official – the night before.
The new security measures sparked violent protests outside the Lion's Gate and in predominantly Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority-controlled cities in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).
On Tuesday morning, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office announced the decision to remove the metal detectors and the security cameras.
Jordan Releases Israeli Ambassador and Security Guard
Part of the deal with Jordanian King Abdullah II involved the release of Israeli Ambassador to Jordan Einat Schlain and the security guard, identified as "Ziv," who shot and killed two Jordanians at yet another terror attack in Amman.
The teenage terrorist, who stabbed the guard with a screwdriver, and a man identified as the owner of the compound, were both killed in the incident. Jordan refused to allow the guard or the ambassador to leave the country, claiming it wanted to interrogate them.
After meeting with them Tuesday morning at his Jerusalem residence, Netanyahu released a statement.
"I am happy to see you here and that things ended the way they did," the prime minister told Schlain. "You acted well, calmly, and we also had an obligation to get you out. This was not even a question. It was only a question of time and I am pleased that it was short."
"It is good to be home," Schlain responded. "Everything is fine."
"A weight has been lifted from my heart. Thank you from my heart," Ziv added. "I am happy to be here. Einat and I felt that people were standing behind us and were making every effort, we felt this and I am glad that we are here."
Transform Crisis into Opportunity
Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, former head of Israeli military intelligence who served as military attaché to Washington said the decision has the potential "to transform a crisis into an opportunity," leaving Israel in a better position in future confrontations.
"I think everybody has learned a lesson," Yadlin told journalists by phone. In the future, he said, Israel may coordinate more with Egypt and Jordan, but at the end of the day Israeli security demands will be received with much more priority and more legitimacy than before.
"If the Jordanians make the same mistake they did a week ago (when the Jordanian parliament speaker praised the terror attack on the Temple Mount), we can start all over again, but Israel will have much higher legitimacy."
"I think this [decision] gives a lot of room to maneuver on both sides," Yadlin said, and even the claim about changing the status quo [on the site] will give us more time."
Earlier, the Wakf's grand mufti, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, warned they would not adhere to any security modifications near the Temple Mount.
"We only accept that the situation returns to what it was before July 14," the London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat quoted the mufti. "All other measures at al-Aksa are rejected."
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates condemns, in the strongest terms, all the measures taken by the occupation authorities against the al-Aqsa Mosque, whether by placing electronic gates or cameras in its surroundings and yards, or by controlling the entry of worshipers and physically examining and humiliating them," the statement read in part.
'Day of Rage'
Last Friday, the P.A. and the Wakf instructed Muslims not to comply with the new measures, instead calling for a day of rage, closing mosques and urging tens of thousands to converge at the site for Friday prayer. Despite the incitement, there was relative calm on the Temple Mount Friday though rioting continued elsewhere into the late afternoon and evening.
Late Friday evening, when many had breathed a sigh of relief that things were calming down, a 19-year-old Arab breached the security fence in the Samaria Jewish town of Halamish, stabbing a father and his two grown children to death as the celebrated the birth of the family's newest grandson around the Sabbath table.
Hamas, the Palestinian faction controlling the Gaza Strip, praised the bloody massacre.