Kerry announces deal to calm Jerusalem uprising

Kerry announces deal to calm Jerusalem uprising
Israel and Jordan had agreed on steps, including round-the-clock video monitoring to end o the uprising in Jerusalem, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced Saturday.
3 min read
25 October, 2015
Palestinians resist Israeli occupation forces in occupied West Bank [Getty]

US Secretary of State John Kerry announced Saturday that Israel and Jordan had agreed on steps, including video monitoring, to bring an end to the unrest in occupied Palestine.  

But the announcement contained few details on how the monitoring system would work, and it was not immediately clear whether it would be enough to calm the unrest that has raised fears that the region is on the brink of a new round of heavy fighting. 

Late Saturday, Israel said it welcomed "increased coordination" with the Jordanians. There was no immediate Palestinian reaction.

Kerry had spent several days holding talks with Israeli and Arab leaders, capping his efforts with meetings Saturday with the Palestinians and Jordan. Kerry said King Abdullah II of Jordan suggested the monitoring and that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted.

"All the violence and the incitement to violence must stop. Leaders must lead," Kerry told reporters in the Jordanian capital after meeting with the king and with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

     Jordan maintains custodial rights over the Muslim holy sites.

The uprising started at the holy site last month over fears that Israel was expanding its presence at the sensitive Jerusalem shrine, revered by Muslims.

Saturday's proposal, particularly Jordan's engagement, could go a long way in easing the tensions. Israel captured the holy site from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war. But under a longstanding arrangement, Jordan maintains custodial rights over the Muslim holy sites through an organisation called the Waqf, and since signing a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, has often served as a mediator.

When similar tensions erupted last year at the same site, Jordan briefly withdrew its ambassador from Israel and tensions subsequently abated.    

Palestinian officials and representatives from the Waqf had no immediate comment, saying they were still awaiting details.   

Kerry, who met with Netanyahu in Berlin on Thursday, said the leaders "expressed their strong commitment to ending the violence and restoring the calm as soon as possible."

"I hope that based on these conversations we can finally put to rest some of the false assumptions, perceptions" about the holy site, Kerry said.

"Those perceptions are stoking the tensions and fueling the violence and it is important for us to end the provocative rhetoric and start to change the public narrative that comes out of those false perceptions." 

In addition to the round-the-clock video monitoring, Kerry said the understandings included Israel fully respecting Jordan's "special role" as custodian of the site, its continued enforcement of religious worship at the site in which Muslims pray there and non-Muslims visit and its commitment not to divide the site and to reject any attempt to suggest otherwise. 

Kerry said video monitoring would provide "comprehensive visibility and transparency, and that could really be a game-changer in discouraging anybody from disturbing the sanctity of this holy site."  

It remained unclear how the new arrangement will work, when it will begin and who will be doing the monitoring.

It's also unclear if this will have any impact on the violence. Most of the Palestinian attackers have been teenagers or in their 20s, and it is not clear whether politicians can influence them. 

On Friday, Israel lifted restrictions on Muslim worshippers after having barred younger Muslim men from entering the compound on Fridays. The site itself has been quiet for more than a week.