Trump Administration Did Not Pressure Israel on Temple Mount, Official Says

State Department says 'we would never pressure Israel into making a security decision for political purposes'

Israeli security forces stand at the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, after Israel removed all security measures it had installed at the compound, and Palestinians entered the compound in Jerusalem's Old City July 27, 2017.
MUAMMAR JAMEL AWAD/REUTERS

WASHINGTON - The Trump administration did not put pressure on Israel to take down the security measures on Temple Mount, a spokeswoman for the State Department said on Thursday.

According to Heather Nauert, who addressed the issue during a press briefing at the department, the decision to remove the cameras and metal detectors from the Temple Mount area this week was reached independently by the Israeli government, not as a result of American pressure.

"Israel’s security is among our top priorities. We would never pressure Israel into making a security decision for political purposes," Nauert said. "The Trump administration has been and will remain engaged in that situation," she added, emphasizing that "we would not get involved in a decision like that. It’s their decision. We recognize that the sides have to be willing to work together on this."

On a broader level, Nauert said that "we have all seen in this part of the world that there have been ebbs and flows, developments where there has been more tension and where there have been periods of less tension. So we’re taking the long view on this and recognizing that it’s going to take some time for both sides to be able to work together to start to rebuild trust in perhaps a smaller fashion, and then try to build upon that. And that’s what Mr. Greenblatt is there for, so that he could help facilitate that."

Earlier Thursday, Greenblatt, who was in Jerusalem in recent days holding talks with Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians as part of an attempt to renew the calm on the Temple Mount, said he "welcomes the efforts undertaken to de-escalate tensions in Jerusalem today."

Greenblatt comments referred to Israel's decision to return the status on the Temple Mount the state it was before the July 14 terror attack.

In a statement released Thursday night, Greenblatt added "that calm and security will create the best opportunity to return to dialogue and the pursuit of peace."

Jerusalem's mufti Mohammed Hussein announced Thursday that the situation at the Temple Mount compound has been restored to what it was prior to July 14's attack, and that prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque are to resume.

His announcement follows the overnight removal of all remaining security measures from the entrances to the Temple Mount, including infrastructure for "smart" camera technology that was to replace the metal detectors that were removed on Tuesday, in  in accordance with the demands of the site's religious authority, the Waqf.

A source briefed on the de-escalation efforts, who requested to stay anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue, told Haaretz on Wednesday that senior officials in Trump's administration demanded Abbas stop incitement regarding the Temple Mount and end calls for protests.

According to the source, the U.S. administration made it clear to the Palestinian leadership that Israel had taken a lull in the process of removing the metal detectors and cameras placed at the entrance to the Temple Mount.