Succumbing to Palestinian intimidation, Jordan has dropped its plan to install surveillance cameras at the Haram Al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), or Temple Mount.
The cancellation of the plan is seen as a severe blow not only to Jordan, but also to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who, in October 2015, brokered the agreement to install the cameras at the site.
Kerry announced then that Jordan and Israel had agreed to round-the-clock video surveillance, with the goal of reducing tensions at the Temple Mount.
Since then, however, the Palestinians, who have unleashed a wave of violent attacks on Israel in a purported response to Israeli «provocations» at the Temple Mount, have been campaigning against the plan to install the security cameras there. This week, it turned out that this campaign of intimidation was not in vain.
The Palestinians argue that the cameras would be used by Israel to identify and arrest Muslim worshippers who protest against visits by Jews to the Temple Mount. What they seem to have forgotten is that these «protesters» regularly harass Jewish groups and individuals touring the Temple Mount. The «protesters» are known as murabitoun (the Steadfast) and their main mission is to stop Jews from touring the Temple Mount. Some are affiliated with the Palestinian Authority (PA), while others are on the payroll of the Islamic Movement in Israel.
How Kerry will respond to this spit in the face remains to be seen. Not a sound was heard from him throughout the months of the Palestinian campaign to scuttle the plan.
With the U.S. deafeningly quiet on the subject, the Jordanians were left alone to deal with the Palestinian intimidation.
As the Palestinian threats intensified, Jordan’s King Abdullah dispatched his foreign minister, Nasser Judeh, to an urgent meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.
At the meeting, Abbas did his old bait-and-switch trick. Claiming that he was in favor of the plan to install the security cameras at the Temple Mount, his Islamic clerics and Palestinian Authority officials continued to incite against the plan.
Abbas’s foreign minister, Riad Malki, denounced the plan as a «new trap.» He warned that Israel would use the cameras to arrest Palestinians under the pretext of «incitement.»
Malki is here referring to the male and female Muslim worshippers whose mission is to harass and intimidate Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount. Thus, the PA foreign minister wishes to maintain the right to threaten Jews at the Temple Mont without being documented or caught on camera.
Palestinian Arab young men with masks, inside Al-Aqsa Mosque (some wearing shoes), stockpile rocks to use for throwing at Jews who visit the Temple Mount, September 27, 2015.
The Islamic Movement in Israel, headed by Sheikh Raed Salah, joined the chorus of critics by issuing its own threats to thwart the camera plan.
The straw that broke the Jordanian back was a leaflet that was distributed at the Temple Mount during Friday prayers two weeks ago. The leaflet urged Muslims to smash any cameras installed at the holy site. Who was behind the leaflet remains unclear, but sources in East Jerusalem blamed Palestinian activists and members of the Islamic Movement in Israel. The latest threat came as Jordan announced that the cameras would be installed at the site in the coming days.
Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour made no bones about the decision to drop the plan: it was, he stated, a direct response to Palestinian «opposition» and «reservations.» He also noted that Israel had agreed to the installation of the cameras.
«At the beginning, Israel tried to hinder the project through various means,» Ensour said. «But we were able to overcome that.» He said that Jordan was nevertheless «surprised» by the reaction of the Palestinians to the cameras initiative.
Jordan has made clear that it was the Palestinians, and not Israel, who foiled the installation of more than 50 surveillance cameras at the Temple Mount as a stop towards easing tensions there.
Yet, no reaction from Kerry.
In one blow, Palestinians have managed to undermine Jordan’s historic role as «custodian» of the holy sites in Jerusalem and humiliate King Abdullah, who was the mastermind of the camera plan. They managed to do so largely thanks to the failure of the U.S. Administration to follow up on the implementation of the Kerry-brokered agreement.
We are seeing an old movie. Once again, the Palestinians have strong-armed their way to disaster. Their incessant intimidation fails to achieve a truly worthy goal: a better life under a non-dictatorial regime.
Once again, the Palestinians have prevailed — and in their win, they lose yet again.
Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist, is based Jerusalem.
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