PHOTO: US Secretary of State John Kerry visits Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday
Hoping to defuse a rise in violence between Israelis and Palestinians, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has restated a pledge to ban any non-Muslim prayer on the Temple Mount complex — which includes the Dome and the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque — in Jerusalem.
Tension over a possible expansion of access to Jewish groups for prayer was a catalyst for clashes across East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza this month. More than 50 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces, while ten Israelis have died in stabbings or shootings by Palestinian assailants.
Netanyahu’s promise came amid a visit by US Secretary of John Kerry, who met Jordan’s King Abdullah and Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday.
Kerry said that Netanyahu had agreed to “an excellent suggestion by King Abdullah to provide 24-hour video coverage of all sites” on Temple Mount: “This will provide comprehensive visibility and transparency and that could really be a game changer in discouraging anybody from disturbing the sanctity of the holy site.”
The Secretary of State had prepared his initiative with a meeting with Netanyahu in Berlin on Thursday.
The Dome of the Rock, where Abraham is said to have offered the sacrifice of his son Isaac, is revered in both Judiasm and Christianity, while the al-Aqsa Mosque is one of the holiest places in Islam. A decades-long arrangement overseen by Israel and Jordan, has allowed Jews to visit but not pray on the site.
Netanyahu said on Saturday:
[There will be] increased coordination between the Israeli authorities and the Jordanian Waqf, including to ensure that visitors and worshipers demonstrate restraint and respect for the sanctity of the area, and all this in accordance with the respective responsibilities of the Israelis authorities and the Jordanian Waqf.
Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said Abbas demanded “international protection” for occupied territory during his meeting with Kerry.
Erekat said Abbas called for the protection against “terrorist” acts by Israeli settlers, Israel’s “extrajudicial executions,” and punitive demolitions of homes belonging to suspected attackers’ families.
According to the official, Abbas told Kerry that young Palestinians were “angry, hopeless, and seeking independence and freedom”.