Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Picture: REUTERS
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Picture: REUTERS

Jerusalem — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he wants to expel Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera from Israel amid tensions over a sensitive Jerusalem holy site.

"The Al-Jazeera channel continues to incite violence around the Temple Mount," Netanyahu wrote in a Facebook post late on Wednesday, referring to the Haram al-Sharif compound in Jerusalem, known to Jews as the Temple Mount. "I have appealed to law enforcement agencies several times to close the Al-Jazeera office in Jerusalem. If this is not possible because of legal interpretation, I am going to seek to have the necessary legislation adopted to expel Al-Jazeera from Israel."

Israel has regularly accused Al-Jazeera of bias in its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Al-Jazeera condemned what it called "arbitrary accusations and hostile statements", adding that the network would "take all necessary legal measures in case they act on their threat" saying its coverage was professional and objective.

Protests and deadly unrest have erupted in the days since new security measures, including metal detectors, were installed at the holy site, which includes Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Israel removed the remaining new security measures on Thursday and Palestinians announced they would end a boycott of the site.

Muslims had been refusing to enter the site and prayed in the streets outside for more than a week after Israel installed the new security measures at the compound. The Israeli measures followed an attack that killed two policemen on July 14.

Palestinians view the security move as Israel asserting further control over the site. Israeli authorities said the metal detectors were needed because the July 14 attackers smuggled guns into the compound and emerged from it to attack the officers.

Netanyahu’s remarks come as Gulf states seek Al-Jazeera’s closure. Regional kingpin Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt broke ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of fostering extremism and later issuing 13 demands, including Al-Jazeera’s closure.

Netanyahu has sought to improve ties with countries in the region, where it is heavily criticised for its 50-year occupation of Palestinian territory. Egypt and Jordan are currently the only two Arab countries with peace treaties with Israel.

The prime minister has also faced a backlash among Israelis for his decision to install the metal detectors after the attack at such an ultra-sensitive site, with many calling it a miscalculation from which he was forced to back down.

Netanyahu heads what is seen as the most right-wing government in Israeli history. He has frequently criticised the news media, accusing it of seeking to undermine his government.

AFP

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