Israel is bracing itself, taking measures to cope with more violence at the end of an already horrific week. In the past 48 hours, there have been eleven attacks against Israelis and countless violent confrontations between Arabs and Israeli police.
Three weeks ago, when the violence began on the Temple Mount, 800 additional policemen were drafted, specifically to cope with the situation in Jerusalem. Police are preparing for continued violence over the weekend.
Muslim men under the age of 45 are barred from the Temple Mount, while women of any age can enter. Non-Muslim visitors are only allowed to enter the site at specific hours and are banned by police from praying there. Police have set up metal detectors at the entrances to Jerusalem’s Old City.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew sharp criticism from all sides on Thursday when he banned all politicians, Arab and Jew, from visiting the Temple Mount.
Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat called for all Israelis with valid gun licenses to carry weapons.
“Given the current escalation in the security situation, those with a licensed firearm who know what to do with it must go out with (their weapon) – it’s an imperative,” mayor Barkat said to Army Radio. “In a way, it’s like military reserve duty.”
“The mayor encourages licensed gun owners to carry their weapons to increase security. He himself serves as a personal example of this,” the city of Jerusalem said in a statement. The mayor was photographed carrying his gun in Jerusalem.
Tensions have been high among Arabs and Jews. Friday morning, a mentally disturbed Israeli injured four Arabs in a stabbing attack in Dimona, and Thursday evening, an large crowd protested in Jerusalem, angry about the government’s inability to stop Arab violence.
Jewish Home, considered a strong right-wing element in the Knesset, called on Jews to show restraint.
MK Moti Yogev said to the press, “Under no circumstances will we take the law into our hands to harm Arabs – only when it’s life-threatening,” he said. “We will strengthen the government and security forces to allow them to act with determination to eradicate terrorism and restore deterrence and security nationwide.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu also expressed this sentiment.
“Israel is a state of law and order,” he said. “We will utilize the law to the fullest against all who initiate violence and break the law – from any side.”
Minister for Public Security Gilad Erdan (Likud) anounced that the government may outlaw the organizations Lehava and La Familia. Lehava’s head, Bentzi Gopstein was arrested at Thursday’s protest rally in Jerusalem.