Progress Made in Israel-Jordan Negotiations Over Surveillance Cameras on Temple Mount

Cameras will be installed in large plazas, few other locations in compound but contrary to Israel’s demand, not in mosques, Jordanian minister says; delegation of technicians from Hashemite Kingdom to arrive in Israel in coming days.

Israeli border police officers walk in front of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, Jerusalem.
REUTERS

Progress has been made in the negotiations between Israel and Jordan over placing surveillance cameras on the Temple Mount. 

Senior Israeli and Jordanian officials said Sunday that the two sides had reached agreement on a significant number of disputed items that had delayed implementation of the understandings formulated over three months ago through the mediation of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Jordan’s Minister of Religious Trusts, Hail Daoud, said Sunday that a delegation of technicians from his ministry will visit Jerusalem during the next few days to expedite the final engineering and technical arrangements involved in installing cameras on the various plazas of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Senior Israeli officials confirmed his remarks. The progress in the talks was first reported Sunday by Channel 10.

The Jordanian minister presented the main points of understandings reached regarding the cameras. The cameras will be installed in the large plazas and in a few other locations in the Temple Mount compound but contrary to Israel’s demand, no cameras will be installed in the mosques.

The minister said that the cameras will broadcast simultaneously to Jordanian and Israeli control rooms. Transmissions will be live, 24 hours a day. The Jordanian minister said that to facilitate this a computerized communications network would be set up to link the Temple Mount to the Ministry of Religious Trusts in Amman.

Daoud added that the transmissions would be streamed online so that people anywhere in the world interested in what’s happening on the Temple Mount can tune in at any time. This, however, was denied by Israeli officials, who said that there would be no such online streaming at this stage.

Daoud stressed that the camera installations  "were a Jordanian demand, not an Israeli one, and that the move was meant to protect the Aqsa Mosque and document Israeli violations." He said the cameras were meant to “Pressure the occupation regime not to harm worshipers,” and to refute Israeli claims that the recent violence on the Mount was provoked by Muslim worshipers.

On October 22, after a month of tension and violent incidents around the Temple Mount, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Kerry in Berlin in an effort to find a way to calm things down. During that meeting, Netanyahu told Kerry that Jordan had once suggested installing surveillance cameras on the Temple Mount that could be used to monitor events there in real time and make sure the mosques were not harmed or the status-quo there violated.

Netanyahu said at the time that he would be interested in advancing such a plan, and a few days later, after a round of talks in Amman, Kerry announced the plan at a press conference with his Jordanian counterpart, Nasser Judeh. The understandings reached about the cameras at the time reduced the tension between Israel and Jordan and helped renew bilateral contacts that had been severed for several months.

Over the last three months there have been talks between the Israel Police and the Shin Bet security service on the Israeli side, and officials of the Waqf (Muslim religious trust), which oversees the Temple Mount, and the Jordanian intelligence service on the Jordanian side. The Palestinian Authority was not a party to the talks, but gets updates from the Jordanians and has tried to influence the talks through them. The U.S. administration gets updates from both Jordan and Israel.

While the talks were basically technical, both sides soon realized that on a place like the Temple Mount, even seemingly technical issues like camera placement, the nature of the transmissions and control of the filmed material quickly become sensitive and substantive diplomatic issues. A senior Israeli official said that numerous disputes arose between the two parties and the talks got difficult and started to founder. In recent weeks, however, the talks picked up momentum and some of the points of contention were resolved.