An Israeli-Jordanian agreement to install surveillance cameras on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount to defuse tensions has been termed "a trap" by some Palestinian Authority officials.
PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said Sunday that Israel planned to use footage from the video cameras to arrest Muslim worshippers it accuses of incitement against it. "This is a new trap," he said.
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The proposal for the surveillance cameras was initiated by Jordan’s King Abdullah. Although his father, the late King Hussein, had waived Jordan’s claim on the West Bank in favor of Palestinian sovereignty in the area, Jordan retained custodianship over the Temple Mount, third holiest site in Islam. As such, it has a direct interest in the current flare-up.
Secretary of State John Kerry applauded Abdullah’s proposal as "an excellent suggestion" and brokered an agreement between the king and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Such surveillance, said Kerry, "could really be a game-changer in discouraging anybody from disturbing the sanctity" of the Mount.
Netanyahu told his Cabinet Sunday that Israel had an interest in the installation of video cameras on the Temple Mount to demonstrate that Israel was not deviating from the status quo that permitted non-Muslims, including Israeli Jews, to visit the holy site at pre-determined hours but not to pray there.
Additionally, he said "it would show where the provocations are really coming from."
Israel accuses stone-throwing Arab youths of touching off the riots while Palestinians say a growing influx of settlers and right-wing activists among the Israeli visitors is challenging the Arab character of the site. Jewish activists have demanded prayer rights on the Mount.
A senior Palestinian official, Saeb Erekat said that Netanyahu was interested in installing cameras "in order to monitor and arrest our people."
PA President Mahmoud Abbas has as yet made no public statement on the issue. To oppose the proposal would be to oppose his nominal ally, King Abdullah but to support it would put him at odds with many of his own supporters.
Officials of the Islamic trust, the Wakf, which administers the Mount said that Israeli police over the weekend had stopped the installation of cameras by the Wakf. A statement issued by the trust said it regarded this interference as "evidence that Israel wants to install cameras that only serve its own interest."
An Israeli spokeswoman said the issue was still being discussed at the diplomatic level, with American involvement. "Once a decision is made it will be implemented with the approval and coordination of all relevant parties."
An American official said that Israeli and Jordanian technical officials would meet to work out details, including who would conduct the video monitoring. No date for the consultation has yet been set.
Ten Israelis and at least 52 Palestinians have been killed in "lone-wolf" attacks by knife-wielding Palestinian assailants, almost all of whom were killed, and in widespread rioting on the West Bank.
An Israeli soldier was severely wounded Monday in a knife attack near Hebron by a 19-year-old Palestinian who was shot dead. On Sunday, two Israelis were wounded in separate knife attack on the West Bank and a Palestinian knife wielder was shot dead.