Israel tells Arab dignitaries: We’re protecting freedom of worship

The defense minister wants Israel’s Arab neighbors to know that Israel is only against “extremists.”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Defense Minister Benny Gantz told foreign Arab dignitaries Monday that Israel is trying to protect freedom of worship on the Temple Mount and would like that message sent back home.

Gantz was hosting an Iftar meal with ambassadors and other high-ranking diplomats from Morocco, Bahrain, and the UAE, which signed the Abraham Accords, as well as Egypt and the U.S.

“I spoke with many leaders from your countries,” he said, “and as we have made clear – Israel sees freedom of worship as an important and critical value and is working in an unprecedented way to protect it in the face of an extremist minority that harms those who want to pray and spend time with families.

“You know the reality on the ground, and it is important that you pass it on to the leaders in your countries.”

There has been violent rioting on the Temple Mount for almost two weeks as Muslim worshippers crowded into the Al-Aqsa Mosque for Ramadan prayers. Hundreds have been arrested and several dozen injured after throwing rocks, Molotov cocktails and fireworks at security forces trying to keep them from hurting Jewish visitors to the Mount and the Western Wall plaza below.

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Videos spread on Arab social media of Israeli police subduing rioters — resulting in condemnation of Israel throughout the Arab world, including official protests to Israeli ambassadors in the UAE and Jordan.

The Palestinian Authority and Jordan have been blaming Israel for “provoking” the violence, describing the police response as “storming Al-Aqsa.” Their ambassadors repeated the claim and talked of Israel’s “violation of the historic status quo” on the Mount at a Monday meeting of the UN Security Council devoted to the volatile situation.

On Tuesday, prior to a UN Security Council meeting, Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan said, “Hundreds of Palestinian terrorists rioting on the Temple Mount posed a threat to both Muslims and Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall, and therefore the Israeli police had to intervene.”

“The only ones – the only ones – breaking the status quo on the Temple Mount are the Palestinian terror groups inflaming the holy sites,” he stressed.

There can be no equivalence, no calling for “calm on both sides,” he added.

“The very notion that mobs of violent rioters motivated by radical Islamic terror groups could be placed on the same moral scale as a law-abiding democracy making every effort to keep the peace, is ludicrous.”