JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for “responsibility and restraint” by lawmakers and said he would not change the Temple Mount status quo.
“Let us not play into the hands of our extremist enemies,” Netanyahu said Sunday at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting. “I think that what is necessary now is to show restraint and to work together to calm the situation.”
He asked that private initiatives and “unbridled statements” be avoided.
“At this time we must show responsibility and restraint,” the Israeli leader said.
Netanyahu said the government is “committed to the status quo for Jews, Muslims and Christians” on the Temple Mount, adding that “it is easy to start a religious fire, but much more difficult to extinguish it.”
He said the messages of restraint and the continuation of the status quo have been passed along to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as “to all elements in the area.”
Jews are not permitted by the Muslim Wakf, the religious administration that manages the site, to pray or bring any ritual objects to the Temple Mount.
Netanyahu made his remarks as unrest continued over the weekend at the Temple Mount and in eastern Jerusalem following the reopening of the holy site early Friday morning. Israel had ordered the site closed on Oct. 30 in the wake of the assassination attempt the day before on Temple Mount activist Rabbi Yehuda Glick.
Glick remains in serious condition and on a respirator at Shaarey Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.
Over the weekend, Israel Police said they arrested 17 suspects involved in disturbances in Jerusalem. Some 111 suspects have been arrested since a Palestinian man drove his car into a Jerusalem light rail station in northern Jerusalem 10 days ago, killing two, including a 3-month-old girl, the police said.
Israeli lawmaker Moshe Feiglin visited the Temple Mount on Sunday morning.
“My visit to the Temple Mount was ‘accompanied’ by tens of Arabs shouting threats and curses,” he said in a Facebook post after visiting the site. “They feel that they have nothing to fear. Despite the attempted murder [of Glick], Arabs were allowed to pray on the Temple Mount, while Jews were barred until today.”
Feiglin has been assigned a bodyguard due to death threats.