Har HaBayis Quiet as Age Limits Lifted

YERUSHALAYIM -

Less than 24 hours after Israel and Jordan said they had committed to working to reduce tensions in Yerushalayim, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called for a “day of rage,” Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu charged on Sunday, and called on him to halt incitment.

The agreement to work together for an end to violence at Har HaBayis in particular was announced at the end of a meeting in Amman on Thursday between Secretary of State John Kerry, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Netanyahu. Kerry and Abbas talked separately shortly before the tripartite summit.

Netanyahu stated that incitement directed by the Palestinian leadership was at the root of recent conflict; and that Israel would continue to act to preserve order.

Kerry mentioned “specific and practical” steps to reduce tensions, but would not provide any details. He insisted that the measures must be kept secret to avoid misunderstandings, but said they would become evident in the coming days if all sides keep their word.

However, a possible outcome of the meeting was already noticeable on Friday as age restrictions on Muslim men entering Har HaBayiswere lifted for the first time in weeks, and calm prevailed.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki hailed Friday’s lifting of the age restrictions as a much-needed good-faith gesture to help calm down the situation.

“This is an important development. It’s one we certainly welcome. And a positive step toward maintaining the status quo of the site,” Psaki told reporters in Washington. “Now, the situation is still very tense. We have our eyes open. We will remain engaged and in touch with the leaders, and of course, actions by the parties going forward are the key to restoring and maintaining calm.”

However, the Imam of the compound’s al-Aqsa Mosque, Ekrima Sabri, said “no instructions” were given for the calm Friday. “Police treated the worshippers peacefully so they were peaceful,” he said, casting blame on the Israeli police for recent disturbances.

U.S. officials had hoped to get some indication from Jordan that it was ready to consider returning its ambassador to Israel, but the Jordanians were not so forthcoming, saying that it would depend on Israel’s behavior.