RAMALLAH, West Bank: Palestinian officials reacted warily on Sunday to what U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hailed as Jordan’s “excellent suggestion” to calm Israeli-Palestinian violence by putting a sensitive Jerusalem holy site under constant video monitoring.
“This is a new trap,” Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said on Voice of Palestine radio, accusing Israel of planning to use such footage to arrest Muslim worshippers it believes are “inciting” against it.
Kerry, who met Jordan’s King Abdullah and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman on Saturday, said Israel gave assurances it has no intention of changing the status quo at the al-Aqsa mosque compound, which is holy to Muslims and Jews.
Muslim fears, amplified in social media, that Israel seeks to lift its long-standing ban on Jewish prayer at the site, have fueled a three-week-old wave of Palestinian stabbings in Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank and Israeli cities. Israel has repeatedly denied the allegation.
At least 52 Palestinians, half of whom Israel says were assailants, have been killed in attacks and during anti-Israeli protests in the West Bank and Gaza since Oct. 1. Nine Israelis have been stabbed or shot dead by Palestinians.
Palestinians are also fuming over what they see as excessive use of force by Israeli police and soldiers. Israel says it is justified in using lethal force to meet deadly threats.
Kerry, stepping up diplomatic efforts to stem the worst Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed since the 2014 Gaza war, said Israel had accepted a proposal by Jordan’s monarch, custodian of the al-Aqsa compound, for round-the-clock monitoring by cameras.
Such surveillance, Kerry said, “could really be a game-changer in discouraging anybody from disturbing the sanctity” of the al-Aqsa site, which Israel captured along with the rest of East Jerusalem and the West Bank in a 1967 war.
There was no immediate comment from Abbas. Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Abbas had told Kerry “that he should look into the roots of the problem – and that is the continued occupation”.
In violence on Sunday, a Palestinian stabbed and wounded an Israeli near a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, the military said. The wounded man fired at the assailant, who fled, and the Palestinian Health Ministry later said a Palestinian was hospitalized after being shot by an Israeli.
Speaking to his cabinet on Sunday, Netanyahu said Israel “has an interest in cameras being deployed everywhere on the Temple Mount” to refute claims that it is changing the status quo.
Jews revere the site as the location of two destroyed biblical Jewish temples. For Muslims, it is the Noble Sanctuary and Islam’s third holiest place.
Netanyahu said such surveillance on the plaza – where stone-throwing protests against Jewish visits often break out – would also “show where the provocations are really coming from” and to thwart them from the outset.
“He (Netanyahu) wants to install cameras in order to monitor and arrest our people;, he is lying and lying,” Erekat said.
A U.S. official said Israeli and Jordanian technical officials would discuss who would conduct the video monitoring, but no date for consultations was announced.