TEL AVIV – More than three months after Jordan and Israel agreed to install cameras on the Temple Mount, the two sides are still stuck at an impasse amid disputes, Haaretz reported.
The security measure was aimed at de-escalating tensions on the religious site, holy to both Jews and Muslims, and now senior Israeli officials and western diplomats are concerned that hostilities will flare up again in the lead-up to Passover in late April, when the number of Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount increases.
After a period of violent clashes on around the Temple Mount, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in Berlin with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in October in an attempt to restore calm to the area.
Netanyahu mentioned the Jordanians’ proposal to place cameras on the Temple Mount to certify that the Muslim site was not being damaged and that the status quo was being maintained.
Kerry subsequently announced a joint deal to install the cameras, marking the first cooperative measure after a long hiatus in Jordanian-Israeli relations.
Yet in the three months since, Haaretz reported that there have been negotiations between the Israel Police and Shin Bet security service on one side, and the Waqf – the Islamic trust in charge of the Temple Mount – and Jordanian intelligence on the other.
The sensitivity of the site, which Muslims call Haram Al-Sharif, means that even the most trivial technical issue becomes a point of contention substantive ones.
“Early on, we realized that the story was more complicated than we thought when the idea was raised,” a senior Israeli official noted.
Haaretz outlined the three main points of dissent:
- Will the cameras broadcast to Israel, Jordan or a website that anyone can access?
- Will Israel be able to control the broadcast, or pause or edit the transmission? The Jordanians and Palestinians demand that Israel be prohibited from such actions.
- Where will the cameras be stationed? Israel wants them throughout the Temple Mount, including inside the Muslim holy sites of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock – in part to show that they are used to store weapons or rocks used against Israeli security forces. Jordan and the Palestinians strongly oppose placing cameras in the holy sites themselves.
The parties involved said that it is incumbent on both sides to find a solution before the major Jewish festivals of Passover and Pentecost.
“If we reach that point and there will still not be agreements then all the tensions we saw around the Jewish holidays in September can start again,” the official said.