Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh on Thursday to finalize plans to install security cameras on the Temple Mount, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews that has been at the epicenter of tensions in recent months.
The two met in the West Bank city of Ramallah to discuss ways to “protect the status quo in the Al-Aqsa Mosque from Israel’s violations,” the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported.
In October, US Secretary of State John Kerry endorsed a plan to install cameras at the site in a bid to calm repeated disturbances, after talks with Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah II. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also agreed to the plan.
The surveillance was to have been set up months ago. But disagreement between Jordan and Israel over what the cameras can show apparently contributed to the delays.
Israel wants cameras installed everywhere in the compound, including in the two mosques there, to document alleged hoarding of stones and weaponry by Palestinians in preparation for clashes with Israeli security forces. Jordan, the custodian of the shrine, only wants cameras in open areas to show alleged violations by Israeli security forces.
In February, the Jordanian-run trust or Waqf that administers the site complained that Israeli police had blocked it from installing the cameras.
A “control center” will be set up to monitor round-the-clock video surveillance of the compound, Jordan’s Islamic Affairs Minister Hayel Daoud said recently.
The footage will be broadcast online to “document all Israeli violations and aggressions,” he said in a statement, adding that no cameras would be installed inside the mosques.
Last week, a Jordanian government spokesman announced the cameras would be installed “within days,” and confirmed the cameras would be restricted to open areas.
Underlying the seemingly technical arguments is a fundamental disagreement over who is in charge of the 37-acre Temple Mount, which is central to the competing national and religious narratives of Israelis and Palestinians, Muslims and Jews.
This rivalry is one of the key issues at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has repeatedly sparked violence.
Clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli security forces erupted at the compound in September amid fears among Muslims that Israel was planning to change rules governing the site.
Israel has repeatedly denied there are any such plans.
The clashes preceded a wave of Palestinian terrorism and violence, including stabbing, shooting and vehicular ramming attacks that have killed 29 Israelis, two Americans, an Eritrean and a Sudanese since October 1 last year. Some 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces in this period, most of them while carrying out attacks, according to Israeli officials.
Israel captured the Temple Mount, site of the biblical temples, from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed the area, but it left Jordanian religious authorities in charge of the Muslim holy sites there. While Israel controls access to the holy site, Jews are barred from praying there.
Israel and Jordan have close but quiet relations in other areas, such as security coordination against Islamic extremists. Israeli and Jordanian officials have shied away from commenting about the cameras on the record, presumably not wanting to upset the delicate ties between the countries.