August 27, 2015

MEDIA COMMENT: Economics? Does the media care?

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:20 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Economics? Does the media care?

We are a rich society, and as the saying of our sages goes, one who has lots of possessions has many worries.

The crisis in the financial markets made headlines this past week. The pundits discussed why it came about, and how it affects Israel and Israelis. There was a consensus on a few issues.

One is that no one knows to predict how serious the meltdown is. It is not clear whether it is a “short term correction” or whether we are in for a prolonged decline which may seriously affect the world economy and Israel. The second is that the decline affects the pockets of almost all Israelis. The average citizen can no longer afford to ignore the markets for all of our savings are linked to them. Fifty years ago, the careful citizen would put savings into a government-backed and cost-of-living-indexed savings account and sleep well. This is today nigh impossible.

We are a rich society, and as the saying of our sages goes, one who has lots of possessions has many worries.

Listening to our radio or viewing our TV sets however, one would think that nothing has changed. Economics reportage on Israel’s mainstream electronic media is rather poor and does not provide good service to the responsible citizen. At face value, one might wrongly perceive that there is broad coverage. Kol Yisrael’s Reshet Bet has a daily hourly economics program at 4:05 p.m., usually presented by Anat Davidov. Galatz has such a program at 7:05 p.m., presented by Oded Levinson, who has a law degree. Both stations have permanent economic reporters, Ran Binyamini at Kol Yisrael and Yuna Leibson at Galatz.

A similar situation is found on TV. Oded Schachar is the economics czar of TV channel 1. He is a graduate of Hebrew University, with a B.A. in economics and an M.A. in business administration. Keren Marciano is his counterpart in Channel 2. Her B.A. is in law, her M.A. is in business administration. She runs a daily program at 7:30 p.m., The Savings Program, which provides the average citizen with financially related advice. Channel 10 has Matan Chodorov, who also served as head of the channel’s labor union.

Chodorov’s professional education is in law. Is it only by chance that the formal education of most of these “stars” is law, not economics or finance? Or is this a poor professional choice which seriously impacts quality? One may safely say that many of the reporters are socialist in their outlook, and this reflects itself in their reportage.

The question of employment is very important. If any Israeli company fires employees or is on the verge of bankruptcy, these reporters will immediately pick up the story, even though usually it affects only a very small minority. Messrs.
Binyamini and Chodorov went out of their way to prevent closure of Channel 10 TV. Shouldn’t their job have also included covering the economic logic of closing down the channel? Shachar’s reportage is severely colored by his socialist worldview.

But perhaps most problematic is that their reportage has very little to do with the financial markets.

A simple example is the bond market.

Anyone who listens to the news programs with the intent of understanding how the bond market fared is naïve. At most, the reports will refer to TA 25, Israel’s analog of the Dow Jones Industrials index, which provides a very partial reflection of the market. The bond market is huge. Most of our savings are in the bond market, not in stocks. Why is it ignored? Is it because the reporters are just not sufficiently conversant with bonds? The rule of thumb is that bonds, provided they are not junk bonds, are the more conservative investment.

Why then did our bonds lose enormous value at the same time that the stock market failed? An Israeli invention is the “Keren Hishtalmut” which can be translated as “education furtherance fund.” The fundamental idea was a good one: any employee should have the opportunity to further her or his education. This is good for the employer, for the state and the employee. The government thus decided that any funds deposited in such a fund would not be taxed for profits. Today, the fund is just another source of income – even the best deal in town. Not only are the profits exempt from taxation, most of the financial companies that service these funds are willing to give out loans at sub-prime rates using them as collateral, thus even further increasing their value.

Different funds have different policies.

Does the public know this at all? Do our diligent reporters keep an eye on them or are the funds in the news only when someone in the Finance Ministry suggests taxing them? But there is even more to it. The managers of the funds are quite negligent in their financial reports. The customer receives one only once a month and even then the report is 20 days outdated. Given the volatility of the markets, it becomes very difficult for the concerned owner to decide when to sell the holdings. We once pointed this out to a senior economic correspondent, who was completely unaware of it. When asked if anything would be done about it the answer was evasive, and to this day nothing has changed.

It is much easier to feed the consumer the facts the major financial companies give out, rather than delve in-depth into their operations. Most companies offer financial management programs and even advertise them in the media. Their fees are high and their performance is nothing to be very proud of. When was the last time that Oded Shachar provided his public with an in-depth analysis of these companies? Why is it that their actual fees are a well-kept secret? Israel radio had an ongoing advertisement from a real estate company indicating a 20 percent return on investment in US properties. This reminded us about a famous story attributed to Professor Moshe Kaveh, the former president of Bar-Ilan University. Someone tried to convince him to invest the university’s endowment funds with Bernie Madoff, noting the assured 10% annual return.

Kaveh’s supposed retort was that this was the very reason why one should keep away, since no one could provide such high returns on a year to year basis. Bar- Ilan University saved a lot of money. Has anyone investigated this real estate company? Or is it sufficient that it pays for advertising to keep them immune from a serious study? We are not economists nor are we trained in finances. However, the lack of professionalism of economic reporting in Israel’s electronic media is just another symptom of the prevailing attitude – we know everything better, the consumer should just appreciate us and not ask questions. In truth, Israel does have very serious economic reporting in the written media, but somehow, this information, vital for a “start-up nation,” has not yet diffused into the electronic media. Sports are covered much more thoroughly than finances! It should not take a financial crisis to bring the markets to the forefront.



August 20, 2015

MEDIA COMMENT: Summer media vignettes

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:35 am by yisraelmedad

MEDIA COMMENT: Summer media vignettes
Summer vacation is upon us, the High Holiday Days are still a month away and it is quite hot. Our media, however, remains as active as ever. Too much of it is colored by the political persuasions of the personnel who bring us our news, leading to avoidable errors.

As we have highlighted previously, when even the supervisory systems of the regulatory bodies lack the will to set things right, correct what’s wrong and punish malfeasants, Israel’s media consumers bear the brunt and our society’s democratic fiber suffers.

A few vignettes from the past week or two are instructive.

Torching at Duma vs. Eli’s Gas Station

The horrific crime in the Arab village of Duma on the evening of July 30 was “naturally” assumed to be the work of “Jewish extremists” and/ or “price tag youth.” Official government and police spokespersons didn’t even take the trouble to make the usual, if laconic, announcement we have heard dozens of times in the past that “police are investigating all possible avenues.” From our review, no reporter pressed the police or politicians on this at question time.

Of course, ever since the Rabin assassination many fear being tarred as promoting conspiracy theories.

Nevertheless, no one thought the fact that the father, who has since died, was transported to Beersheba, bypassing three Jerusalem hospitals, while the rest of the family were flown to Sheba Hospital in Ramat Gan, was worthy of a query. There could be very good medical reasons for such a decision but it does seem odd that no question was asked.

On the other hand, this past Friday night, the gas station near the Binyamin region community of Eli was torched. Given the fact that it was Shabbat and the station was Jewish-owned, one might suspect the perpetrators were not Jews. But while the media had no problem establishing a specific ethnic identification for the Duma crime, in the case of the Eli gas station most mainstream news sites did not suggest that Arabs could have been involved.

Chaim Levinson vs. Emily Amrousi

Emily Amrousi writes a column in Israel Hayom and has appeared in the recent past as a regular panelist on Channel 10 and more recently Channel 20 television. After posting on her Facebook account that she had introduced her nine-year old son to elements of the subject of sex, she discovered that Haaretz’s Chaim Levinson had not only disparagingly parodied her post but had done so in an obnoxious, pornographic and misogynist fashion. She felt, she responded, verbally sexually abused.

She was also astonished to learn that many of Levinson’s friends, some highly placed, after learning of her intention to file a complaint with police contacted her to persuade her no to do so.

Here was a classic case of a woman being victimized for her gender in a very public place – but Amrousi is religious and resides in the Samaria community of Talmon. The incident was treated more as a situation to be observed rather than one in which the media actually becomes involved. Haaretz did not even report it while NRG/Ma’ariv and Makor Rishon did. The media was divided along clear ideological lines.

As it happens, over in England this week, Mark Latham, a former Labor Party leader who became a regular columnist for the Australian Financial Review resigned. The behindthe- scenes buzz is that he was forced to do so. The suspected reason, as reported by The Guardian, was that he maintained a parody account on Twitter which contained not infrequent “derogatory remarks [aimed] at numerous prominent women.”

Among those targeted, the Guardian mentioned journalists Anne Summers, Leigh Sales, Lisa Pryor, Mia Freedman and Annabel Crabb.

Latham’s punishment was swift.

The liberal press knows how to deal with men who attack women – unless the victim is an Amrousi: quick-tongued and sharp, with a political orientation the media doesn’t share.

The Temple Mount

One of the activities associated with the struggle for Jewish rights on the Temple Mount is the monthly “Walk Around the Gates.” The several thousand participants do not enter the Temple Mount but very much demonstrate their desire for Jewish rights to be protected within.

The “walk” is described by the mainstream press as just another one of those fanatical episodes, endangering the “peace” on the Temple Mount. The fact that the walk is legal, is a defiant call against the trampling of human rights, is at best ignored.

This week, though, an announcement sponsored by the Jerusalem Municipality appeared informing all and sundry that between the dates August 25 and August 28 a new public artistic “festival” will be held, in the shadow “of the Temple Mount/Haram E-Sharif.” The festival’s organizers specifically note that instead of the normal discourse relating to the Mount which is “political and religious,” a “new voice” will be heard, one that is a “square of creativity and art.” The festival will spotlight not only the site’s sacredness but also issues such as “occupation.” It remains to be seen whether it receives fair treatment by the media.

Beitar Jerusalem vs. Hapoel Tel Aviv and the swastika

The supporters of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club, notably the “Familia” gang, are notorious for their violent behavior. The team has often been penalized; fans were barred from games, translating into a significant financial loss. Epithets of a racist nature are sometimes heard in the stands and although they are noisy, they still are not the majority.

The media has devoted documentaries to the phenomenon. Political figures make comments, prompted by reporters, and the condemnations are part of the folklore.

This past Sunday, at a game between the local Hapoel Tel Aviv club and its guests from Maccabi Petah Tikva, several signs were seen in the stands aimed at foes of the old Ussishkin stadium, now dismantled, who are members of the municipal Tel Aviv council. The letters “aleph” in their names were written in a distinct font, one that resembled a swastika as well as the SS insignias worn on the lapels of the Nazi uniforms.

The police were called in but “accepted” the explanation of the fans that the Hebrew letter was not written to echo any Nazi symbols.

Oddly, the aleph in the name “Ussishkin” appeared quite normal.

In this case, the fans were not tarred and feathered by the press.

The incident was simply reported in a straightforward manner. Would Beitar, the darling of Jerusalem’s Mizrachi and nationalist camps, have been treated with such understanding? We haven’t even touched upon the general attack on the appointment of Danny Danon as our new ambassador to the United Nations.

All these examples and many others lead inexorably to the day when the public will simply shun those whose journalism is not professional.


August 12, 2015

MEDIA COMMENT: Be a part of the new media revolution

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:59 pm by yisraelmedad

Media Comment: Be a part of the new media revolution
Much has been written lately about the gas monopoly and how the state should or should not deal with it.
Much has been written lately about the gas monopoly and how the state should or should not deal with it. No matter from which angle the issue is discussed, all admit that monopolies are not desirable. The state has an obligation to do its utmost to end such economic anomalies.

There is also no reason to permit outrageous private profits from a national resource. There is, though, one monopoly that is hardly ever raised in the public discourse, namely the monopoly of the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA) as well as that of the Army Radio Station (Galatz) over our radio airwaves.

For historical reasons, only these two stations are permitted to broadcast nationally. The regional radio stations are what their name implies; they are limited to certain geographically defined regions. The local Jerusalem radio station cannot be heard in Tel Aviv through the regular FM transmission. The commuter from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, or vice versa, who wants to listen to a regional station has to switch somewhere along the middle of the route. This is unpleasant, and so the average driver and passenger opt to listen to the IBA or Galatz, whose broadcasts are uninterrupted.

The result is that the reported audience listening to the two public stations is almost tenfold that of the regional ones. This has immense implications.

It is much better to advertise on a national station and so these two get the majority of the advertising market, even though they are publicly funded. Their competitive power to get advertising, which is based on their monopoly, is unfair to other networks, yet neither the government nor the press care. The immediate victim of this unfair practice is the quality of programming on the regional radio stations.

The smaller income perforce implies smaller budgets for programming.

The monopoly has, however, some additional aspects which are troubling.

It is no secret that both stations are dominated by left-wing liberals. One can just imagine how large segments of the population who have no choice but to get their information from the IBA and Galatz are seething about the media attack on Israel’s right wing and the residents of Judea and Samaria following the criminal attack which led to the murder of the infant Ali Dawabsha in the northern Samaria village of Duma. Even though to this day no one knows who the perpetrators are, the fingers are pointed immediately and consistently at Israel’s Right. Is the Druse population similarly castigated for the murderous attack on Syrians wounded just over a month ago? The anchors of the IBA and Galatz simply do not understand, nor do they want to understand, a position which differs with their own.

There is an added aspect concerning the programming of the IBA and Galatz: they don’t care at all about what the public thinks. Consider the “Kol Hamusika” channel of the IBA, which is supposed to broadcast classical music. It has never even occurred to the IBA management to ask the public whether they like the programming, or whether the musical content should be changed.

The monopoly can be changed and it only depends on you and me.

In past years, listening to radio broadcasts meant owning an FM receiver. This is no longer so. Anyone of us can tune in to their favorite radio station on the Internet. Even though this technology is available for over 10 years, it could not compete with the monopoly. It was still impossible (except for the very rich) to receive high-quality radio programming via the Internet.

But the technological revolution has arrived and now almost everyone, for a pittance, may listen to Internet radio through their smartphone, 24 hours a day. The third-generation cellular phone technology has allowed this to happen. The monthly cost is negligible, the bandwidth used is much less than the typical five-gigabyte listening package provided by the cell phone operators. Yet, one problem remains: how can one connect the smartphone to the car radio? In fact, this is really very easy. Almost all cars have in their radios the “AUX” option, which allows connecting an auxiliary apparatus to the radio. All one needs to connect the smartphone is a cable with two “male” ends. One is inserted into the phone, the other into the AUX jack. One sets the radio receiver to AUX and the monopoly is broken. There are dozens of apps which allow a smartphone user to surf any radio station she or he desires. Pick your favorite one and you can listen to it anywhere in Israel, indeed from anywhere in the world, including the US, Europe or even China.

Is the quality good enough even for classical music? From personal experience the answer is yes, and in many ways even better. In most road tunnels in Israel, FM reception is poor, but phone reception is maintained. In other words, using the AUX option, one will have better reception than on the FM radio.

This technology has an additional advantage. The owner of a website knows how many people are logged in at any given moment. In other words, instead of the “standard” rating procedure, which depends on inaccurate polls, here there is no question how many people are listening. The station’s managers can then use these precise statistics with the advertisers. A good station will profit and may become even better. A bad station will eventually disappear.

This technology, whose cost is negligible as the necessary cable can be bought for less than NIS 30, brings another revolution. The Second Authority for TV and Radio can now become the Second Authority for TV Only. There is no need for anyone interested in radio broadcasting to go through the hellish administrative demands of the Authority to open, at most, a regional radio station. Just go online, spend some money on advertising to let the public know you exist and you’re in business.

The upshot of all of this is that technology allows us to get rid of the monopoly of the IBA and Galatz over our airwaves. Don’t get angry at them, just do the right thing: stop listening to them. Go to your favorite radio station through your smartphone and start enjoying your daily trip to and from work.


August 6, 2015

MEDIA COMMENT: A light unto the nations?

Posted in Media tagged at 12:24 pm by yisraelmedad

A light unto the nations?

The problems with modern-day TV in England are not limited to news but also to programming

One of the more intriguing, as well as potentially explosive issues when it comes to media ethics is the question of in-built bias among journalists. Is there a newsroom atmosphere? Is there a herd instinct that influences how the reporters and editors do their jobs, thereby creating a dominating discourse that all too often may punish those in the media who do not toe the line? Let’s look at the BBC, where there seems to be a problem.

A fortnight ago, we learned that members of the BBC Newsnight program were pressured to leave due to their actions in the Savile expose. This claim was made by Meirion Jones, the former head of the program’s investigations unit, who also had to leave. (Jimmy Savile, a top BBC star, was exposed as a serial child abuser.) Jones was quoted as saying, “We were told at the time that you won’t be sacked but over a year or two years you’ll realize you are being treated as an outsider, that you will never be trusted because you blew the whistle, and you will find yourself leaving.” He insisted that those who tried to expose the BBC’s handling of the case were seen as “traitors” while executives who tried to suppress the scandal had continued their careers unhindered.

The problems with modern-day TV in England are not limited to news but also to programming. Tim Hincks is president of the UK Endemol Shine Group, and is considered a leading British TV executive. His company is one of the world’s largest independent production companies. He produces low-quality but highly popular shows such as Big Brother and Master-Chef . In a lecture last week, he described England’s television industry as “hideously middle class” and even called for forced diversity in broadcasting and production. He further noted that “It’s not moral, it’s not political…There’s a weak spot that we have that hampers the program-makers and the broadcasters. It’s an industry-wide problem….”

On June 27, Christopher Booker published an op-ed in The UK Telegraph on the BBC. He was blunt, writing, “BBC’s senior executives are so lost in their corporate groupthink that they have no real idea just how biased it is” and provided examples of “how mindlessly the BBC falls into its party line.”

The BBC took another hit that same week when Brendan O’Neill, editor of the Spiked website, who describes himself as an atheistic libertarian, published this indictment: “For an institution that loves sneering at politicians, the BBC is remarkably thin-skinned when a politician fires back.” The BBC’s “irritation…shows how sacralised the Beeb has become, how much it fancies itself…a worship-worthy institution that none may blaspheme against.”

Here in Israel, many media people, feeling pressure from complaints, often defend themselves by comparing their standards to those of other countries. The employees of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, especially those in the news division, always point to the BBC as the paradigm of public broadcasting. We would suggest, especially in view of the evidence, that it is high time that the BBC no longer be considered an example and role model which should be emulated or revered.

Is mediocracy a characteristic only of British media? Is the failure of professional standards limited to England? In America they think not.

The 2015 State of the First Amendment Survey released two weeks ago indicated that nearly three-quarters of Americans believe the news media report with an intentional bias. Only 24% of American adults agree that “the news media tries to report the news without bias.” That is a drop of 17 points from the previous year.

Investigative reporting should be the media’s bread and butter, but it is most difficult to maintain. Typically, one reporter is insufficient. Even with leaks from within, as in the Watergate affair, a team is required. Money needs to be invested, while results are usually months away. A good and reliable investigative reporter must be of higher quality than the standard journalist who parrots press releases of interested parties.

In Scotland, for example, there has been a steady and substantial decline in investigative reporting by the country’s established media. As published last month in The Scotsman , it has been accompanied by sharp cuts in staffing, pagination and funding in many daily papers. In parallel though, a group of freelance journalists has launched a new subscription-based, crowd-funded investigations unit to make up for the failure of the traditional Scottish news media. The Ferret, as the web- based project has named itself, parallels investigative journalism collectives such as De Correspondent in the Netherlands and the Belfast-based The Detail.

Here in Israel, we have a large assortment of writers or programmers who consider themselves investigative reporters. These include TV star Dr. Ilana Dayan, whose program may be characterized more by sensationalism and money making than with the need to supply the consumer with well investigated facts. The same malaise may be found in the major news-papers; the investigative weekly page of Israel Hayom may be considered more of a gossip column.

The only truly independent and influential investigative reporting in Israel which is also unbiased, willing to deal with any topic irrespective of its ideological or personal implications, is the News1 website of Yoav Yitzchak. Yet Yitzchak is ostracized by the mainstream media, who all too often “steal” his scoops, belittle them or even worse, ignore them.

Claiming that the media is over-ponderously slanted to the Left and that editorial and newsrooms are staffed by those who consider themselves liberal is pooh-poohed by media insiders, at best. More typically such a charge will result in the critic being besmirched, lambasted and other – wise pilloried. We should know. Israel’s Media Watch is invariably described as “right wing” while other NGOs, markedly leftist, usually merit the description “working for peace and/or democracy.”

When right-wingers suggest that the media should be more pluralistic in terms of content and editorial personnel, that, too, is not encouraged in the name of liberalism and democracy, but roundly denounced. This was never more obvious than in a session of a Knesset committee’s deliberations this week on amendments to the new public broadcasting authority.

Minister Ofir Akunis, who adopted IMW’s suggestion to name the new body the Israel Public Broadcasting Authority, had to vigorously defend himself instead of being acclaimed for his Zionist stance.

It is high time that our media stops copying the worst in the media abroad and instead become a “light onto the nations” as befits our start-up Jewish state.


August 2, 2015

I Am Interviewed

Posted in Temple Mount at 10:06 am by yisraelmedad

Why is Muslim harassment of Jews on the Temple Mount increasing?

By DANIEL K. EISENBUD, 07/30/2015

The most practical solution is for police to enforce a policy that restricts Muslim mobs from coming within 20 meters of Jewish visitors to the Mount, one activist claims.

The problem of intimidation of Jews at the holiest site to Jews has reached a critical stage in the last several years, Yisrael Medad, secretary of the Temple Mount Group, said on Wednesday.

“Over the past two to three years, we saw men first sitting in circles studying the Koran, and then, sooner than later, they sat on pathways designated for Jewish visitors, so they couldn’t walk,” he said.

“Then the women got up and followed us around, screaming and yelling ‘Allahu akbar!’ The police will not push and shove them like they will the men, which is why women frequently lead the mobs.”

The Jordanian government pays between 300 and 500 Muslim women and unemployed men to harass Jews, Medad claimed.

The Islamic Movement’s northern branch, based in Umm el-Fahm, compensates 150 additional provocateurs, he said.

While Medad acknowledged that several Muslims with long histories of stirring trouble on the Mount have been barred from entering it for up to three months, he said that harassment of Jews there has continued to grow.

“What happens now is that when we exit the Chain Gate, they follow us out, screaming and yelling,” he said.

“Last Thursday’s yelling at the woman who was later arrested for saying ‘Muhammad is a pig’ was not on the Temple Mount, but in the Muslim Quarter. So, not only are they on the Temple Mount, but they are following Jews outside to the Muslim Quarter as well,” he said.

Medad said the most practical solution, an idea he raised nine months ago at a meeting with the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, is for police to enforce a policy that restricts Muslim mobs from coming within 20 meters of Jewish visitors to the Mount.

“You want to protest against Jews?” he asked. “Fine, [but] do so at a safe distance.”

The central problem, Medad asserted, is that while Jews are told by Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu that there is a status quo – and that it cannot be altered – facts on the ground tell a different story.

“The Arabs are altering that status quo from month to month, and year to year,” he said. “More and more, Jewish visitation is being limited during Ramadan, as well as additional closings due to security threats.”

Medad said that wait times for Jews to ascend via Mugrabi Gate have grown exponentially, while non-Jewish visitors enjoy speedy service.

“The best solution is to give them [non- Jews] 90 percent of the place for visits. I’d be satisfied with 90 minutes to two hours a day in a far corner to pray and be a Jew,” he said.

“You cannot be a Jew at Judaism’s holiest site. You must be an unidentified tourist,” he said.

Although Medad acknowledged that the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) has cracked down on the extremists who fund those who harass Jews on the Temple Mount, he said much more needs to be done.

According to Jerusalem City Councilman Dr. Meir Margalit (Meretz), who holds the east Jerusalem portfolio in the municipality, the root of the violence and harassment is far more deep-seated than provocateurs on an extremist organization’s payroll.

“The question whether these people are paid is irrelevant,” he said on Wednesday.

“It’s not just another small group of Palestinians who hate Israelis. No. This is the main feeling of Palestinians in east Jerusalem, and especially religious ones. They are convinced that the Israelis want to expel Palestinians from the Mount, that they want to destroy al-Aksa Mosque.”

“Of course they hate Israelis,” he continued.

“If [Jews] were in the position the Palestinians are in, we’d have exactly the same feeling. When it comes to religious issues, Muslims, Christians and Jews, all of them, they don’t know what the meaning of compromise is. They are absolute. So, there are people they hate when they think the people are trying to expel them,” he said.

Margalit said that there is no imminent solution to the decades-long conflict.

“In the near future, there is no possibility of coexistence on the Temple Mount,” he said, adding that only the establishment of a Palestinian state and withdrawal of Jewish settlers in the occupied territories will effectively address the issues there.

“Once we come to a compromise with the PLO on the future of the occupied territories, then we will come to a compromise on the Temple Mount,” he said.

“Under these [present] conditions, there is no chance of a compromise.”

Margalit asserted that Muslims at the holy site do not object to Jewish visitors, but rather to right-wing Jews, “who come up with a political agenda.

“When I was there, I was treated respectfully,” the Jewish councilman said of his numerous visits at the invitation of the Wakf Islamic religious trust, which oversees the compound for the Jordanian government. “They gave me coffee and sweets.”

The problem the Muslim extremists have, he said, is not with Israelis or Jews in general, but with Jews who go up to make “provocations” and “political statements.”

Asked why three Jews have been arrested for slandering Muhammad while there have been no Muslim arrests for slandering Judaism and chanting “Death to Jews” at Jewish visitors, police spokeswoman Luba Samri claimed that the law is enforced equally.

“Police operate under transparent and clear procedures, which include the obligation to respect the law and rights of others unilaterally, wherever they are, and will continue to take action against religious offenders who violate the public space,” she said. “Such enforcement is impartial.”