Netanyahu reaffirms status quo on Temple Mount

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed Israel’s commitment to the status quo on the Temple Mount and said it would continue to enforce its policy of not allowing non-Muslims to pray there.

“Israel will continue to enforce its longstanding policy:  Muslims pray on the Temple Mount; non-Muslims visit the Temple Mount,” Netanyahu said Saturday night.

“Recognizing the importance of the Temple Mount to peoples of all three monotheistic faiths – Jews, Muslims and Christians:  Israel re-affirms its commitment to upholding unchanged the status quo of the Temple Mount, in word and in practice. As we have said many times, Israel has no intention to divide the Temple Mount, and we completely reject any attempt to suggest otherwise,” Netanyahu said in televised remarks.

Netanyahu said there would be “increased coordination between the Israeli authorities and the Jordanian Wakf, including to ensure that visitors and worshippers demonstrate restraint and respect for the sanctity of the area, and all this in accordance with the respective responsibilities of the Israelis authorities and the Jordanian Wakf.”

His announcement came hours after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced during an appearance before reporters with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh in Amman that Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah agreed to the placement of 24-hour-a-day surveillance cameras on the site.

“This will provide comprehensive visibility and transparency, and that could really be a game changer in discouraging anybody from disturbing the sanctity of this holy site. I expect Jordanian and Israeli technical teams will meet soon to discuss the implementation of this idea alongside other measures to maintain and enhance public order and calm,” Kerry said, calling it a “first step” toward bringing Israel and the Palestinians back together to discuss long-term peace.

“Jordan is a stakeholder. When it comes to the Palestinian-Israeli peace, all of the final status issues between the Palestinians and the Israelis touch the very heart of Jordan’s national security and national interests. Jordan is the largest host of Palestinian refugees in the world. Jordan has a special role in Jerusalem, and His Majesty King Abdullah II is the Custodian of Christian and Muslim Holy Sites in the Holy City. When it comes to the other final status issues such as borders, security, water, no arrangement can be reached, no final arrangement can be arrived at, without the input and active participation of Jordan. We’ve made that clear from the beginning,” Judeh said during his appearance with Kerry.

Netanyahu defended his decision to install the cameras on Sunday at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting.

“Israel has an interest in stationing cameras in all parts of the Temple Mount. First, in order to disprove the claim that Israel is changing the status quo. Second, to show where the provocations really come from and to foil them before they ever happen,” he said.

Deadly Palestinian attacks on Israelis have sharply increased in recent weeks amid tensions over the Temple Mount, a Jerusalem site holy to Jews and Muslims. Driving the tensions in part have been reports among the Palestinians that Israel is planning to alter the site, which houses a mosque compound. Abbas himself has made the charge, which Netanyahu has continued to vehemently deny.

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