Police block Waqf from installing Temple Mount cameras

Israel says issue is still being finalized at ‘diplomatic level,’ with technical teams soon to agree on procedures at contested site

Palestinian girls sit in front of the Dome of the Rock in the Temple Mount compound on October 23, 2015. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)
Palestinian girls sit in front of the Dome of the Rock in the Temple Mount compound on October 23, 2015. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)

The Muslim authority administering the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City tried to install its own cameras on the Temple Mount, but was blocked by Israeli police Monday.

Israel said the cameras are supposed to be installed only after Israeli and Jordanian “technical teams” meet to finalize the specific arrangements.

The installation of surveillance cameras is a key provision of a deal reached over the weekend between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to defuse tensions over the holy site.

The Jordanian-run Waqf said a team was “working on the installation of cameras belonging to the Islamic Waqf… but the Israeli police interfered directly and stopped the work.”

“We severely condemn the Israeli interference into the working affairs of the Waqf, and we consider the matter evidence that Israel wants to install cameras that only serve its own interests, not cameras that show truth and justice,” it said in a statement.

Israel Police spokesperson Luba Samri told The Times of Israel that “the issue is still being discussed at a diplomatic level. Once a decision is made it will be implemented with the approval and coordination of all relevant parties.”

Israeli officials said there would be no change to the status quo at the site — including installation of cameras — without the agreement of all sides, Channel 2 reported.

A spokesperson from the Prime Minister’s Office said Israel was committed to installing the cameras. The technical teams would meet soon to finalize the specifics, the PMO added.

“The complete agreements concerning the manner and placement of cameras on the Temple Mount plaza which were agreed upon by Israel, Jordan and the United States are intended to be coordinated by professional officials,” Netanyahu’s office said. “The cameras will be installed according to the outcome of the agreements which will be determined by the sides. Israel already expressed its agreement to beginning the process as soon as possible.”

Sheikh Azzam al-Khateeb, head of the Waqf, told AFP that the decision to install the cameras on Monday came from Jordanian King Abdullah II.

“We want to have clear and open cameras for all the world,” he said.

“There is no other authority in the mosque except the administration of the Jordanian Islamic Waqf… no one has the right to (carry out) this action except the Waqf administration.”

At present, Israeli security cameras cover vast parts of the Old City outside the Temple Mount, including several main streets and the entrance to the holy site.

The move to install the cameras on the compound itself was brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday. It is not clear yet if all parties will be granted equal access to live feed from the cameras.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday welcomed the plan, saying it could help refute claims that Israel was trying to expand the Jewish presence there.

A spate of Palestinian terror attacks on Israelis in Jerusalem and the West Bank has been fueled by Palestinian allegations that Israel is trying to alter a delicate arrangement at the holy site — a charge that Israel denies. The site is revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism and home to the biblical Jewish Temples. It is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third-holiest site in Islam.

Speaking to the cabinet on Sunday, Netanyahu said Israel has no plans to change the longstanding status quo at the site, where Jews are allowed to visit but not pray.

“The Temple Mount will be managed as it has been until now. The visits by Jews to the Temple Mount will be maintained, there will be no change, as with the prayer arrangements for the Muslims,” he said. “Israel has an interest in placing cameras around the Temple Mount” to counter the Palestinian claim that it is altering the status quo.

After days of meetings with Israeli and Arab leaders, Kerry announced Saturday that Israel and Jordan, the custodian of the holy site, agreed to a series of steps, including the video surveillance, to halt the violence.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said Saturday that technical teams from both sides would be meeting to work out the details.

Kerry said Saturday that the cameras would be a “game changer in discouraging anybody from disturbing the sanctity of the holy site.”

Most Popular
read more: