Kerry plan for Jerusalem site leaves many issues unanswered

John Kerry’s latest Mideast mission has aimed for the modest goal of easing tensions around Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site — the focal point of more than a month of deadly unrest.


But the steps announced by the U.S. secretary of state over the weekend did little to address the deeper issues behind the fighting, disappointing the Palestinians and raising fears that even if calm is restored, it is just a matter of time before another round of violence erupts.


During a swing through the region, Kerry announced the steps on Saturday after several days of meetings with Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders. The highlight was a Jordanian proposal to install surveillance cameras at the Jerusalem holy site that is known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.


More than a month of violence has been fueled by Palestinian allegations that Israel is trying to change the delicate status quo at the site, which allows non-Muslims to visit but not pray.


The hilltop compound, home to the biblical Jewish Temples, is the holiest site in Judaism. Today, it is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third-holiest site in Islam and a potent Palestinian national symbol.


While Israel has repeatedly said there are no plans to change this status quo, the Palestinian fears have been stoked by growing numbers of Jewish visitors, backed by some senior Israeli officials, who seek prayer rights and an expanded presence on the mount.


Addressing his Cabinet on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he “made clear” to Kerry that Israel is committed to preserving the status quo, and he welcomed the plan to install cameras.


“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,” he said.


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