Jordan seeking to stream Temple Mount footage on Internet

Senior Jordanian official says surveillance cameras to be installed in ‘days, not weeks,’ and will aim for maximum transparency

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men join a group of religious Jews under Israeli police protection on a visit  to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City on October 27, 2015. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men join a group of religious Jews under Israeli police protection on a visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City on October 27, 2015. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

Israeli and Jordanian officials said Tuesday that new surveillance cameras should be installed within days at the Temple Mount, with the goal of streaming the footage live on the Internet for maximum transparency.

The idea to install the cameras emerged during separate talks late last week between US Secretary of State John Kerry and the three sides with a stake at the shrine — Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians.

The details are to be worked out between officials from the site’s Jordanian controlled administrator — the Islamic Trust, or Waqf — and Israeli authorities, said a senior Jordanian government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with briefing regulations.

He said he expects the cameras to be installed in “days, not weeks.”

He said both Muslim clerics and Israeli officials will for now monitor the images, but that “the ultimate goal is for the footage to be seen on the Internet, by everyone.”

Israeli officials confirmed the plan, and in a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said it hopes to start the process “as soon as possible.”

Under the compromise brokered by Kerry, video cameras are to be installed inside the 37-acre (15-hectare) walled platform to help defuse tensions.

According to a report in the Haaretz daily, Netanyahu raised the proposal with Kerry in their Berlin meeting, saying that it had been suggested by Jordan and was backed by Israel. Kerry proceeded to raise the idea in a meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, and credited the Jordanian king for the idea.

Netanyahu on Monday did not rule out making the footage from the Temple Mount accessible to all.

“The cameras will transmit to us and to the people at the Waqf,” Netanyahu said in a Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee meeting according to Haaretz. “But I don’t rule out that ultimately it will be transmitted everywhere. We have nothing to hide and transparency there is good for us.”

Israel has welcomed the camera plan, saying the surveillance will prove it is doing nothing wrong and expose violent activities by Palestinian protesters.

The Palestinians have given the plan a cool reception, saying Israel will use the cameras to arrest people and complaining that deeper issues have been ignored. The Palestinians say the violence is the result of years of Israeli military occupation and a lack of hope for gaining independence after years of failed peace efforts.

At a Jerusalem news conference, Abdel Azeem Salhab, chairman of the Waqf council, accused Israel of trying to “Judaize” the mosque.

“Israel wants cameras for its own purposes and this will not happen,” he said.

On Monday, the Waqf said police had stopped it from putting up cameras around the site. Police said the installation of cameras was still being worked out at the diplomatic level, but the Waqf accused Israel of wanting “to install cameras that only serve its own interests, not cameras that show truth and justice.”

‘Serious breakdown’ in Israel-Jordan ties

According to Haaretz, Israeli and Jordanian diplomatic ties saw a “serious breakdown” in mid-September over the Temple Mount, and US officials credited the camera agreement with salvaging the relationship.

“There was a serious breakdown,” a senior US official told Haaretz. “They just were not talking.”

Kerry’s primary goal in his recent visit was to smooth out the disagreements between Jerusalem and Amman, the report said, and draft a joint statement regarding the status quo at the Temple Mount.

“The Jordanians and Palestinians agreed immediately, but the Americans were surprised that Israel also agreed to many of the provisions,” the Haaretz report said.

The prime minister on Monday acknowledged there was a “period of tension and a disconnect with Jordan,” but did not elaborate, according to Haaretz. “What’s important is that now there’s again cooperation,” Netanyahu added.

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