Police overnight Monday removed body scanners and metal detectors from the entrances to Har HaBayis, in accord with a Cabinet decision from Monday night – and they also removed high-resolution cameras that had been placed there as alternatives for the security equipment.
As of Tuesday morning, the security situation at Har HaBayis is the same as it was nearly two weeks ago – before the murder of two Israeli police officers that prompted placement of the security apparatus in the first place.
The Cabinet agreed on removal of the security apparatus after heavy pressure from the White House and King Abdullah of Jordan – and after Sunday night’s diplomatic incident, in which an Israeli security guard was essentially held hostage in Jordan after he shot and killed a terrorist who tried to stab him. The security guard was released, as Israel began removing the security equipment.
But a debate broke out on whether to leave the high-resolution cameras that had been placed as an alternative to the security equipment three days ago. Police speaking before the Cabinet told ministers that there would be no new security problems if the cameras were kept in place, Haaretz quoted sources at the meeting as saying. The cameras were not as invasive as the scanners, and even if the Waqf opposed them, the cameras would not lead to mass protests, police said.
Meanwhile, IDF and Shin Bet officials said that all equipment, including cameras, should be removed, and that the status quo should be restored to what it was before the murder of the Israeli police officers.
Ministers Naftali Bennett, Ze’ev Elkin and Ayelet Shaked argued on behalf of the position held by police, while Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman – along with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan – pushed for removal of all the equipment.
As far as what will replace the equipment, police said that they would be increasing manpower and patrols in the area of the Old City and on Har Habayis, and would “sharpen” their methods of response for responses to risky situations. Eventually, another less intrusive array of “smart cameras and sensors” would be installed, police said. In a statement, the Waqf said that it continued to oppose any security measures at all at the entrances to Har HaBayis.
Meanwhile, the Otzma Yehudit group headed by former MK Dr. Michael Ben-Ari said that it had sent a letter to the State Attorney’s Office demanding that metal detectors and body scanners be removed from the Mughrabi Gate entrance to Har HaBayis, where Jews and tourists entered the compound. If they are not removed, Ben-Ari promised a lawsuit would be filed with the High Court for discrimination.
“You cannot force Jews to go through a security check that you excuse Arabs from,” the letter said. “If the security requirement is removed for some, it must be removed for all.”