Less than 24 hours after US Secretary of State John Kerry lauded the idea of placing round-the-clock surveillance cameras on Temple Mount as a means of ensuring calm at the holy site, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki on Sunday called the idea “a trap.”
Speaking to Palestinian radio on Sunday, Maliki warned that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assurances Saturday that Muslims would be allowed to pray on Temple Mount while non-Muslims would only be allowed to visit the site were not credible.
Netanyahu, he said, had promised King Abdullah of Jordan and Kerry that Muslims would be granted unrestricted access to Temple Mount ahead of the month of Ramadan last June, only to restrict the age of men eligible to enter to above 40 or 50.
“We are falling into the same trap once again,” Maliki told the radio station. “Netanyahu cannot be trusted.”
“Who will monitor the screens of these cameras? Who will record the movements of those worshipers wishing to enter? How will these cameras be employed, and will the recordings later be used to arrest young men and worshipers under the pretext of incitement?” Maliki wondered.
On Sunday, Netanyahu vowed once again to leave the status quo on the Temple Mount in place, with Muslim prayer and non-Muslim visits guaranteed.
He said the cameras would help dispel accusations that Israel was breaking the status quo, and expressed hope it would help calm the region.
“Israel will continue to enforce its longstanding policy: Muslims pray on the Temple Mount; non-Muslims visit the Temple Mount,” Netanyahu said in a televised message released Saturday.
However, Maliki demanded that any arrangements for the Temple Mount be enshrined in a UN Security Council resolution, rather than only verbal commitments by the Israeli prime minister.
According to Kerry, the “excellent suggestion” of placing 24-hour surveillance cameras on Temple Mount came from King Abdullah, and would provide “comprehensive visibility and transparency” that would serve as “a game changer in discouraging anybody from disturbing the sanctity of this holy site.”
Ironically, it was Jordan that condemned Israel for placing surveillance cameras on Temple Mount in December 2013, demanding Israel remove them.
“Jordan rejects Israel’s installation of surveillance cameras on December 8 to monitor Waqf officials and worshipers, particularly women,” Information Minister Mohammad Momani told state news agency Petra at the time.
On Sunday, an unnamed Fatah official, speaking to Israel Radio, scoffed at the idea of cameras alone insuring calm, claiming that Israel must reinstate the situation which existed on Temple Mount prior to the year 2000, when Jordan’s Religious Endowments Ministry (Waqf) attendants exercised full discretion over who may or may not enter the compound.
Today, Israeli police officers at each of the 10 gates of the Temple Mount examine the identity cards of those wishing to enter, and are allowed to ban the entry of Jews or Muslims based on security concerns.
Meanwhile, as Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh welcomed Netanyahu’s Saturday statement as “a step in the right direction,” it was received with dismay both by Palestinian terror group Hamas and by Jewish Temple Mount activists,
“This is a despicable attempt by Netanyahu, with American collusion, to entrench the Zionist control of Al-Aqsa Mosque by granting the occupation the right to authorize and prohibit Muslims to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque,” read a Hamas statement issued on Saturday.
Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, said that Kerry’s statement was merely a “pathetic” attempt to “beautify the Zionist Judaizing project and rescue Netanyahu from the crisis he is in as a result of his racist, extremist policy.”
Hamas, which overthrew the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip in 2007 and is classified a terror organization by the US and European Union, has long encouraged Palestinians living in Jerusalem and the West Bank to initiate violent attacks against Jews and Israeli soldiers.
The Coalition of Temple Organizations, an assembly of Jewish groups advocating for the right of Jews to pray on Temple Mount, issued an angry statement Sunday following Netanyahu’s announcement that Jews would not be allowed to pray at the site.
“The Prime Minister is not allowed to prevent Jews from praying on Temple Mount,” the announcement read. “Disturbing Jews from praying on Temple Mount contradicts the ‘Jerusalem as capital of Israel’ law as the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
The group interpreted Kerry’s announcement of surveillance cameras as a capitulation to Jordanian demands, calling it “the handing over of elements of government sovereignty to a foreign power.”
“Jordanian and Palestinian dictations of conditions to reduce the cruel terror attacks … are incomprehensible,” the statement read.