Netanyahu: Muslims Pray on the Temple Mount; non-Muslims Visit the Temple Mount

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on during a press conference on October 8, 2015, at his office in Jerusalem.Credit: AFP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed Israel's commitment to the status quo on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in a statement on Saturday, after reportedly reaching understandings regarding the holy site with the Palestinians and Jordan. 

"Israel will continue to enforce its longstanding policy: Muslims pray on the Temple Mount; non-Muslims visit the Temple Mount," read the statement, released only in English late night on Saturday by the Prime Minister's Office. 

In the statement, Netanyahu also said that Israel has no intention to divide the Temple Mount, respects Jordan's role at the site and welcomes increased coordination with the Waqf. 

"Israel believes that those who visit or worship on the Temple Mount must be allowed to do so in peace, free from violence, from threats, from intimidation and from provocations. We will continue to ensure access to the Temple Mount for peaceful worshippers and visitors, while maintaining public order and security," the statement said. 

"We support the call for the immediate restoration of calm, and for all the appropriate steps to be taken to ensure that violence ceases, that provocative actions are avoided, and that the situation returns to normalcy in a way that promotes the prospects for peace," said the statement.

Netanyahu's statement echoed the points which U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he agreed to earlier in the day. In a media briefing, Kerry announced that Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians have reached understandings aimed at easing tensions on the Temple Mount, and read out four points he said Netanyahu had agreed to. Among these was that Israel will continue to enforce its longstanding policy on religious worship, "including the fundamental fact that it is Muslims who pray on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif and non-Muslims who visit."

According to Kerry, Israel also agreed to install cameras on the site, which operating 24 hours a day would show that Israel was not changing the status quo on the Mount and not targeting mosques there.

"This will provide comprehensive visibility and transparency,” Kerry said. “It could be a game-changer in discouraging anybody from disturbing the sanctity of the holy sites."

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