PA Formally Rejects Cameras at Har HaBayis

YERUSHALAYIM (Bloomberg News/TNS) -

Palestinian officials have rejected a U.S.-backed plan to install surveillance cameras at Har HaBayis.

The proposal to place cameras at the holy site was announced by Secretary of State John Kerry after meeting Saturday in Amman with Jordan’s King Abdullah and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

“The placement of cameras in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is not only a violation of the status quo; it also enables Israel to exercise security control and provides it with more enhanced means of surveillance,” Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement Monday. “Israel, as it has repeatedly done, will use it against the Palestinians and not against extremist Jewish settlers or Israeli officials.”

Arab fears that Israel is planning to change longstanding arrangements governing worship at the shrine have fueled a surge in Palestinian stabbing, shooting and stoning attacks that have led to the death of nine Israelis and at least 52 Palestinians, most of them attackers. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu says his government has no plans to change the status quo at the site, and contends Palestinian and Islamist elements are making spurious claims to incite unrest.

Understandings in place since 1967 allow the site to be administered by the Waqf, an Islamic religious body, in coordination with the Palestinians and Jordan. The Waqf said in a statement that Israeli security forces blocked its own effort on Monday to place video cameras in one area of the site. “This only proves Israel is seeking to install cameras that serve its own purpose, and does not want to install cameras to show the truth,” according to the statement.

Netanyahu’s office said Israel has already consented to start placing cameras as soon as possible.

“Final arrangements for the manner and location of the cameras on the Temple Mount, which was agreed upon between Israel, Jordan and the United States, were intended to be coordinated by the professional elements,” it said in a statement. “The cameras will be installed according to the arrangements to be determined between the parties.”