Netanyahu Accepts Deal Meant to Ease Unrest Over Shrine

Updated on
  • Cameras at Jerusalem holy site to help maintain status quo
  • Israeli wounded in West Bank stabbing despite security steps

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet he accepts arrangements brokered by U.S. Secretary John Kerry meant to reduce tensions over a Jerusalem shrine that have sparked a wave of Palestinian attacks on Jews.

Kerry met Saturday in Amman with Jordan’s King Abdullah and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to hammer out a deal that includes placing video surveillance cameras at the holy site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary. Under arrangements in place since Israel gained control of the hilltop complex in 1967, only Muslim religious prayers are permitted there, while non-Muslims are allowed to visit.

Arab fears that Israel is planning to change these understandings spurred a surge in violence this month that has led to the deaths of nine Israelis and more than 50 Palestinians. Two Israelis were moderately injured in two separate stabbing attacks in the West Bank on Sunday, and a Palestinian woman was shot dead by Israeli forces in Hebron after trying to stab soldiers, Israel police said.

“I made clear in my talks with Secretary of State John Kerry that there will be no change in the status quo,” Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday. “Israel has an interest in stationing cameras in all parts of the Temple Mount. First, in order to disprove the claim that Israel is changing the status quo. Second, to show where the provocations really come from and to foil them before they ever happen.”

Some members of the Israeli cabinet have called for Jewish prayer at the site. Netanyahu decreed earlier this month that no parliament member, Jewish or Arab, would be allowed to visit the shrine for the time being, in a bid to defuse tensions.

Peace talks between the sides have been frozen since they collapsed last year. Kerry, who led the latest round of U.S.-sponsored negotiations, expressed hope in Amman that the understandings reached there will be “a first step to creating some space in order to allow us to resume those steps and that dialogue.”