Kerry rejects calls for international presence on Temple Mount

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry rejected calls to have an international presence on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and called for agreed upon steps to calm the current violence.

“We don’t contemplate any change, but nor does Israel,” Kerry said Monday in Madrid. “Israel understands the importance of that status quo. What is important is to make sure everybody understands what that means. We are not seeking some new change. We are not seeking outsiders or others to come in.”

France has introduced a proposal to the United Nations Security Council calling to station international observers on the site, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan over the weekend called the French initiative a “prize” for Palestinian violence.

“Israel cannot accept the French draft resolution at the United Nations Security Council. It doesn’t mention Palestinian incitement; it doesn’t mention Palestinian terrorism; and it calls for the internationalization of the Temple Mount,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting. “Israel will protect the holy sites, will guard the status quo. Israel is not the problem on the Temple Mount. Israel is the solution,” he said.

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Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Monday summoned the French ambassador to Israel, Patrick Maisonnave, for what Israel media called a “harsh” conversation about the proposal, which has been sharply condemned by Israeli officials.

Jordan, whose Muslim Wakf is responsible for oversight of the holy site, also rejects the call for international observers, Kerry said Monday.

Kerry said on Sunday that he will meet this week with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Kerry reportedly also will meet this week with Jordan’s King Abdullah.

Much of the violence is believed to stem from calls by Palestinian and Arab leaders to protect the Temple Mount from Jewish visitors.

Kerry also called for new peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. “Security and diplomacy go hand in hand,” Kerry said. “There is not a time for one and then the other. There is an importance to both.”

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