Temple Mount crisis resolved? Israel agrees on TV cameras to prove status quo unchanged, Kerry says

© Mohamad Torokman
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has agreed to install cameras on Temple Mount, which will work 24/7 to prove Israel isn’t trying to change the status quo between Muslims and Jews at the holy site, US Secretary of State John Kerry has said.

According to Kerry, Netanyahu has assured him that Israel will keep allowing freedom of worship for Muslims on the Temple Mount, the third holiest site in Islam, and has no intention of changing the status quo.

“I am pleased that Prime Minister Netanyahu has reaffirmed Israel’s commitment to upholding the unchanged status quo of the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, both in word and in practice,” Kerry said on Saturday.

High ranking officials from Israel and Jordan are to meet soon to discuss security issues, the US secretary of state said. Jordan performs a special role as custodian of the Jerusalem site

US envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Frank Lowenstein, will remain in the region for the next couple of days to finalize the details of the deal between Jordan and Israel, he added.

A senior Israeli official told the Haaretz newspaper that the Jewish state has, itself, been interested in placing webcams on Temple Mount “to refute [the] claim that Israel is changing the status quo.”

“In addition, we want to show that the provocations aren’t coming from the Israeli side… Israel has reiterated its commitment to maintaining the status quo and expects an increased effort by the Wakf to maintain order inside the mosques,” the source said. The Wakf is the Muslim religious authority responsible for running the mosque.

The proposal to place cameras at the holy site has been backed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah, with whom Kerry met in Amman earlier on Saturday.

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,” the secretary of state said.

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After the talks, Kerry said that both leaders had “expressed their strong commitment to ending the violence and restoring the calm as soon as possible.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu © Kena Betancur

“I hope that based on these conversations we can finally put to rest some of the false assumptions, perceptions [about Temple Mount]… 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,” the US official is cited as saying by AP.

On October 23, Israel lifted a ban on male Muslim worshipers at the Temple Mount, who had been forbidden from entering the compound on Fridays, the main prayer day for Islam, because police considered their presence hazardous.

According to the status quo, Muslims can pray at the holy site, but Jews are only allowed in as visitors. This policy has been in place since the Six-Day War of 1967, when Israel captured the Temple Mount.

The recent outbreak in violence has been boosted by reports circulating among Palestinians claiming Israel was planning to allow Jewish worship on the mount and even to remove mosques.

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Over the past five weeks, at least 9 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian lone-wolf attacks, while 52 Palestinians have been shot dead by Israeli security forces, including attackers and protestors. 

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On Saturday, the IDF shot a knife-wielding Palestinian man after he attempted to stab an Israeli soldier at the crossing between Israel and the West Bank.

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