Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ultimately backpedaled from his July 16 decision to place metal detectors near the gates to the Temple Mount. This flip-flop, which was viewed by politicians and journalists as capitulation to the Waqf (the custodian of Muslim holy sites) and the Palestinians, then caused Netanyahu to release a gamut of statements and proposals to pacify his right-wing electoral base. The prime minister announced that he would promote the death penalty for terrorists, even though he had opposed it in the past. He instructed Communication Minister Ayoub Kara to work toward the closure of Al Jazeera offices in Israel. He announced the resumption of construction work on a new settlement for the evacuees of the Amona outpost, which he had frozen earlier, and he instructed Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman not to evacuate the settlers who had broken into the Machpelah House in the West Bank town of Hebron. But perhaps the most dramatic announcement of all, one signaling a significant change in the prime minister’s stance, was his statement in support of Liberman’s idea of a territorial swap: The Wadi Ara localities would become part of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in exchange for Israel’s annexation of the West Bank settlements.
The funeral in Umm al-Fahm of the three terrorists who killed the policemen on the Temple Mount on July 14 was attended by masses of local Israeli-Arabs. Immediately afterward, Israel’s Channel 2 reported that Netanyahu had raised a proposal to the US emissaries to the region: The prime minister wants to annex the Etzion Bloc settlement localities in exchange for transferring the Wadi Ara territory — including Umm al-Fahm — to the Palestinians. Liberman had promoted a similar plan for many years, and he even made it the cornerstone of his campaign in the 2015 elections. As soon as he heard Netanyahu’s proposal, Liberman tweeted at him, “Welcome to the club.”