As part of a larger effort to reduce tensions, and with US Secretary of State John Kerry in the region to assist in doing so, Netanyahu has agreed to a Jordanian plan to deploy security cameras on the Temple Mount.
Looking to reduce tensions at a Jerusalem holy site that set off weeks of Palestinian violence, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced Saturday that Israel and Jordan had agreed on steps, including round-the-clock video monitoring on the Temple Mount, to bring an end to the unrest.
Late Saturday, Israel said it welcomed “increased coordination” with the Jordanians. There was no immediate Palestinian reaction.
Kerry had spent several days holding talks with Israeli and Arab leaders, capping his efforts with meetings Saturday with the Palestinians and Jordan. Kerry said King Abdullah II of Jordan suggested the monitoring and that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted.
“All the violence and the incitement to violence must stop. Leaders must lead,” Kerry told reporters in the Jordanian capital after meeting with the king and with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Palestinians began to riot at the holy site last month over rumors that Israel was expanding its presence at the sensitive Jerusalem shrine, Judaism’s holiest site.
The violence quickly spread across Israel. In the past five weeks, 10 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks.
Israel has repeatedly denied Palestinian allegations that it is trying to change long-standing understandings under which Jews are allowed to visit, but not pray at the shrine. Israel has accused Palestinian political and religious leaders of lying and inciting violence.
Just before midnight, Netanyahu issued a statement repeating Israel’s commitment to upholding the status quo “in word and in practice” and saying it has “no intention” to divide the compound, while “recognizing the importance of the Temple Mount to peoples of all three monotheistic faiths – Jews, Muslims and Christians.”
“Israel will continue to enforce its longstanding policy: Muslims pray on the Temple Mount; non-Muslims visit the Temple Mount. Those who visit or worship on the Temple Mount must be allowed to do so in peace, free from violence,” the statement said. “We welcome increased coordination between the Israeli authorities and the Jordanian Waqf, including to ensure that visitors and worshippers demonstrate restraint and respect for the sanctity of the area.”
It called for “the immediate restoration of calm” and “appropriate steps” to be taken to restore calm. “We look forward to working cooperatively to lower tensions, stop incitement and discourage violence,” it said.
Palestinian official Saeb Erekat gave the plan a cool reception Sunday, saying Israel just wants the cameras to track and arrest Palestinians.
Kerry, who met with Netanyahu in Berlin on Thursday, said the leaders “expressed their strong commitment to ending the violence and restoring the calm as soon as possible.”
“I hope that based on these conversations we can finally put to rest some of the false assumptions, perceptions” about the holy site, Kerry said. “Those perceptions are stoking the tensions and fueling the violence and it is important for us to end the provocative rhetoric and start to change the public narrative that comes out of those false perceptions.”
In addition to the round-the-clock video monitoring, Kerry said the understandings included Israel fully respecting Jordan’s “special role” as custodian of the site, its continued enforcement of religious worship at the site in which Muslims pray there and non-Muslims visit and its commitment not to divide the site and to reject any attempt to suggest otherwise.
Kerry said video monitoring would provide “comprehensive visibility and transparency, and that could really be a game-changer in discouraging anybody from disturbing the sanctity of this holy site.”
It remained unclear how the new arrangement will work, when it will begin and who will be doing the monitoring. It’s also unclear if this will have any impact on the violence. Most of the Palestinian terrorists have been teenagers or in their 20s, and it is not clear whether politicians can influence them or whether the camera system would be enough to calm the unrest
Netanyahu: Israel ‘Has an Interest” in Cameras
The United Temple Mount Movement in Israel, an umbrella organization representing groups that seek Jewish prayer rights at the site, said it objected to Kerry’s plans and vowed to take all actions “within the legal-democratic framework” to fight it.
On Sunday, Netanyahu remarked at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting that Israel will not change the status quo. “Arrangements for visits by Jews to the Temple Mount are safeguarded; there will be no change in them, just as the prayer arrangements for the Muslims.”
He said Israel “has an interest” in deploying cameras on the Temple Mount in order to “disprove the claim that Israel is changing the status quo” and “to show where the provocations really come from and to foil them before they ever happen.” He was relating to Palestinian rioters who use their mosques as arsenals and posts form which they carry out attacks on Israeli visitors.
“I hope it will help calm things, at least regarding the Temple Mount,” he said.
By: AP and United with Israel Staff
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