A policeman rescues an Israeli man from a Palestinian lynch mob outside Jerusalem’s Old City, May 10, 2021. (Flash90/Olivier Fitoussi)

“It is the struggle between intolerance and tolerance, between law-breaking violence and law and order,” the Israeli prime minister said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that the Arab rioting in Jerusalem is part of the organized Palestinian campaign to cancel Jewish presence in the city.

Netanyahu made his comments as Palestinian leaders egged on rioters in the city who attacked police and appeared to be trying to break up the annual Jerusalem Day celebrations marking the reunification of the city that had been divided until 1967.

Palestinian leaders, including members of the Hamas terror group in Israel, incited their followers, claiming as usual that Israel was trying to usurp the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City, a commonly used excuse to agitate for violence. Thousands of worshipers at the mosque rioted for several nights in a row, hurling rocks and bottles at police and on the plaza below where Jews and tourists gather at the Western Wall of the ancient Jewish Temple.

“A struggle is now being waged for the heart of Jerusalem. It is not a new struggle. It is the struggle between intolerance and tolerance, between law-breaking violence and law and order,” Netanyahu said. “This struggle is not new because it has been waged, in effect, over Jerusalem and the heart of Jerusalem for hundreds of years, since the rise of the three monotheistic faiths.”

Noting the significance of Israel controlling the once-divided city and guaranteeing access to members of all faiths to the holy sites – which was denied to Jews when it was under Jordanian occupation from 1948 until the Israeli victory in the June 1967 Six Day War – Netanyahu said Israeli governments were all committed to freedom of religion.

“It could be said that in the long history of Jerusalem, only under Israeli sovereignty since 1967 have we witnessed a prolonged, stable and safe period in which we have been working to ensure freedom of worship and tolerance for all,” Netanyahu said. “This is not a mission that we can carry out without conflict from time to time with those same forces of intolerance that want to expropriate our rights – first of all our rights, but not just ours – on the Temple Mount and other holy sites.”

Netanyahu’s comments came shortly after an Arab mob attacked an Israeli car outside the Old City walls. As dozens of Arabs hurled rocks at the vehicle and tried to lynch the occupants, a police officer ran up, firing his gun in the air, and rescued the passengers as the mob was beating them. The driver, a young man named Ephraim, suffered a head wound in the attack that was interrupted at the last second, when his life was saved.

“We insist on ensuring the rights of everyone. This occasionally requires taking a strong stand, as the officers of the Israel Police and our security forces are doing at the moment,” Netanyahu said. “We back them in this just struggle.

“Of course, these things are being expressed erroneously and misleadingly in the global media. In the end truth will win but we must constantly reiterate it.”