Israel and U.S. Cooperating Against French Bid for Int'l Presence on Temple Mount

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The Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem's Old City, November 5, 2014.Credit: Reuters

Israel, the United States and other countries are working together to remove from the agenda a French draft for a UN Security Council presidential statement calling for international observers to be deployed on the Temple Mount, senior officials in the Prime Minister's Office said Saturday.

"The French proposal is completely absurd," a senior Israeli official said, noting that it is only a declarative step.

According to the official, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen and the Foreign Ministry to protest the biased and absurd phrasing of the draft to France.

"We expect the French to condemn the Waqf's incompetence on the Temple Mount," the official said, referring to the Muslim religious trust. "Those who brought in bombs and fired firecrackers were the Palestinians, who turned the Temple Mount to a terrorist storeroom and it is they who tried by that to change the status quo."

The Israeli official stressed that Israel is safeguarding the status quo and is committed to it. According to him, Jews are allowed to visit the site only according the status quo. He added that according to the 1949 armistice agreement, Jewish access to the Temple Mount was internationally guaranteed. "This right wasn't realized until 1967," the official said. "Israel is the one keeping the visits to the Temple Mount free. The torching of Joseph's Tomb shows what would have happened to the holy sites if they weren't under Israel's control. Exactly what is happening in Palmyra in Syria and in Iraq."

France is pushing for a presidential statement on behalf of the UN Security Council that calls for the deployment of international observers to Jerusalem's holy sites, notably the Temple Mount, to ensure the status quo is maintained, "Le Figaro" reported on Saturday, citing French diplomats.

The presidential statement does not constitute a binding Security Council resolution, only serving as a statement of intent. 15 members of the UN Security Council need to consent in order for a presidential statement to be published. It remains unclear if France has managed to achieve such consensus.

On Wednesday, Palestinian ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour called on the Security Council to adopt a resolution guaranteeing the safety and protection of Palestinians and Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem, similar to Resolution 904 adopted after the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre in 1994, which saw international monitors deployed in Hebron.

Israel's new ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said on Friday that Israel objects to any international involvement or oversight on the Temple Mount since it would violate the status quo. In light of Israel's position, it's hard to see how the U.S. could support the call for deploying international observers on the Temple Mount, even if this is only a declarative step. 

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