Ezra: Mount Rally is Very Problematic
reprinted from The Jerusalem Post
Jpost staff and Etgar Lefkovits, THE JERUSALEM POST
A scenario in which thousands of Jews plan to flood the Temple Mount is highly problematic and the police will not enable them to reach the site, Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra said on Thursday.
Speaking with Army Radio, Ezra said that there are intelligence indications by which far right activists may carry out some sort of an attack on the mount. He did not specify whether the nature of the warnings was specific.
"The movements that are organizing this rally do not have any intentions to perpetrate such an attack, but rather express the central theme the site has to the Jewish people. The Muslims were the ones that took it to an extreme, mistakenly thinking that these groups would want to stage an attack," Ezra said.
"Nonetheless," the minister said, "all it takes is a handful of people who could create an immense problem."
According to Ezra, "I have spoken to [former chief rabbi] Mordechai Eliyahu and he explicitly told me to tell the public that he was adamantly against Sunday's planned rally to the mount."
In an interview with Israel Radio on Thursday, Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar said the rally could be viewed as a provocation and may bring about the unnecessary shedding of blood. "That is why we [the chief rabbis] have issued a statement against it", he said.
According to Rabbi Amar, "Nearly all major Jewish sages ruled that Jews are forbidden to enter the holy site. That is the halacah (Jewish law)."
However, David Ha'Ivri, head of the "Revava" movement, which is organizing the rally, said there are places on the mount that Jews can enter.
"Rabbi Shlomo Goren himself measured the site with IDF engineers. It is a well known fact that all the top experts on the matter say that there are certain places which Jews can enter, if purified. Don't forget that the mount is three times larger than what it used to be," Ha'Ivri told Israel Radio on Thursday.
Ha'Ivri said he expects masses to attend. "We are swamped with requests from all over the country. We hope it would change the 38 years of injustice [since the unification of Jerusalem in the Six Day War]."
"I hope the police won't bow down to threats of the Islamic movement, which is acting like a criminal gang, and enable Jews to pray in a holy place," he said.
Ha'Ivri accused the Shin Bet of spreading fake threats. "If they have specific information on individuals, they should arrest them. Why are they tainting an entire sector?"
On Wednesday, Jerusalem police announced that the Temple Mount will be completely closed off to non-Muslim visitors on Sunday, the day of a major ultra-nationalist rally to the site.
Jerusalem police chief Ilan Franco had announced last week that he was barring a massive Jewish pilgrimage to the Temple Mount by a group of ultra-nationalists opposed to the planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip following multiple intelligence warnings that such an event could prompt Palestinian violence at the bitterly contested holy site.
Palestinians officials have denounced the campaign as a provocation, and have warned that such a visit could lead to a renewal of violence at the bitterly contested holy site.
The three major Palestinian terror organizations, Hamas Islamic Jihad and the Al Aksa Martyrs' Brigades, have announced separately that they will resume terror attacks if the event goes ahead as planned.
Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby has said that an amalgamation of intelligence information has indicated that if the group enters the mount, there was a "real possibility" that violence would break out at the site.
Hundreds of Jewish and Christian visitors peacefully tour the holy site on a daily basis during morning visiting hours since the Temple Mount was reopened to non-Muslims visitors a year and half ago.
But over the last six months, police and security officials have repeatedly warned of the possibility that Jewish extremists would attack the super-sensitive Jerusalem holy site as a way of sabotaging the planned summer pullout from Gaza.
The head of the domestic Shin Bet security service Avi Dichter has said that coupled with the possibility of an assassination attempt on the life of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon the threat of an attack by Jewish extremists on the Temple Mount is of the highest concern among security officials, as Israel prepares to withdraw from Gaza.
In light of the threats, chief Franco recently ordered more patrols in and around the compound. Some 700 officers, including regular police, paramilitary border troops and undercover forces, are regularly assigned to the Old City alone.
In response to the increasing threats at the site, the Internal Security Ministry recently decided to set up a state of the art security system of electronic sensors on the Temple Mount a cost of about NIS 100 million (US $23 million).
The sensors are to be installed around the walls of the mount and are designed to alert security forces in the event of an attempted entry in the area.
But the newly enhanced security plan is unlikely to go in effect before the planned Gaza pullout slated for July.
Police have said that they would further increase their forces outside the Jerusalem holy site on the day of the planned event in order to prevent any attempts of forced entry to the mount.
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