Jordan ‘kept Palestinians in the dark’ over Temple Mt. pact — official
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Jordan ‘kept Palestinians in the dark’ over Temple Mt. pact — official

Senior Ramallah official indicates the PA, which was apparently not included in talks to restore calm, will resume security cooperation with Israel

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

On the sidelines of the 28th Arab League Summit on March 29, 2017, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with King Abdullah II of Jordan (C) and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. (Wafa/Thaer Ghnaim)
On the sidelines of the 28th Arab League Summit on March 29, 2017, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with King Abdullah II of Jordan (C) and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. (Wafa/Thaer Ghnaim)

Jordan did not consult with the Palestinian Authority about talks with Israel that led to the removal of metal detectors and cameras from the entrances to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, a senior Palestinian official said Tuesday.

The official also indicated that the PA would renew its security coordination with Israel — frozen over the installation of the detectors — if Israel took “logical steps.”

The detectors were set up last week in the wake of a terror attack at the holy site on July 14, in which three Arab Israeli terrorists used guns smuggled into the compound to kill two police officers standing guard nearby.

“So far, the Jordanians have not presented us with any details of the agreement they reached and it’s not clear why,” the Palestinian official told the Times of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II spoke by phone late Monday to discuss tensions over the sacred esplanade in Jerusalem’s Old City, as well as a diplomatic crisis over a security guard at the Israeli Embassy in Amman who shot and killed two people after being attacked with a screwdriver.

Jordan had demanded the guard be held and investigated, while Israel insisted he be brought home under diplomatic immunity. He and other embassy staff returned to Israel late Monday night.

The Palestinian official said it was Israel that informed the PA’s minister for civil affairs of its intention to remove the detectors and security cameras from the area.

Head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Yoav (Poly) Mordechai, and the Palestinian Authority’s Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh signing an agreement to revitalize the Israeli–Palestinian Joint Water Committee, January 15 2017 (COGAT)
Head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Yoav (Poly) Mordechai, and the Palestinian Authority’s Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh signing an agreement to revitalize the Israeli–Palestinian Joint Water Committee, January 15 2017 (COGAT)

The PA would decide on its position after reviewing developments in the field, the official said.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas was due to meet with activists from his Fatah party in Jerusalem later Tuesday, before meeting with the PA leadership in the evening.

No decision has yet been taken on the possibility of restoring security cooperation, which Abbas suspended Sunday for the first time since taking office 12 years ago, the official said.

He stressed that the leadership in Ramallah had “no intention of allowing any elements to harm stability and order” and vowed to “maintain our recognized obligations” — an apparent reference to the PA’s efforts to foil terror attacks on Israelis.

“If steps taken by Israel are logical, it will be our intention to return to the past situation as far as coordination with Israel is concerned,” he said.

The PA demanded that the situation on the Temple Mount be returned to what it was before the latest crisis, he said, cautioning that it would not countenance any other unilateral steps on the Mount on the part of Israel.

US President Donald Trump's envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exchange greetings at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem, July 12, 2017. (Haim Tzach/GPO)
US President Donald Trump’s envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exchange greetings at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, July 12, 2017. (Haim Tzach/GPO)

American special envoy Jason Greenblatt is expected to meet with the PA’s chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and the head of Palestinian intelligence Majed Faraj to talk about the next steps forward.

On Monday, as Greenblatt ferried from Jerusalem to Amman to try to help broker an end to the conflict on the Mount, Ramallah was conspicuously absent from his itinerary. During the day, the head of Israel’s domestic Shin Bet security agency, Nadav Argaman, was also in Amman to seek a solution to the standoff.

Early on Tuesday, Israel’s security cabinet said it would replace the metal detectors with “advanced technologies,” referring reportedly to cameras that can detect hidden objects, but said the process could take up to six months.

Muslim worshipers have stayed away from the sacred compound since the detectors were installed last week. Instead, they performed mass prayer protests outside the shrine, many of which devolved into clashes with Israeli security forces.

A Waqf official told The Times of Israel that it was continuing the boycott of the Temple Mount until all security measures added after the attack are removed. The official noted that “the new high tech cameras” would not be accepted in place of the metal detectors.

As custodian, Jordan has the final say over Muslim policies at the shrine, but also needs to consider public opinion, including among Palestinians in the Holy Land. Israel retains overall security responsibility there.

Raoul Wootliff and agencies contributed to this report.

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