Disputes delay video surveillance at Jerusalem Aqsa site

This rivalry is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has repeatedly sparked violence

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Video surveillance of Jerusalem’s holiest site was meant to be a quick fix to lower tensions that have driven months of Israeli-Palestinian violence, but disputes over who controls the footage and what the cameras may or may not film are holding up the project.

Underlying the seemingly technical arguments is a fundamental disagreement over who is in charge of the 37-acre walled al-Aqsa compound, revered by Muslims and Jews.

The status quo at the site is a major point of contention in recent months. It upholds a rule that has effectively existed since 1187, when Muslim warrior Saladin defeated the Christian crusaders and held on to Jerusalem: non-Muslims may enter the sacred compound, but only Muslims can pray.

“There is no gimmick to solve this, full stop,” said Daniel Seidemann, an expert on Jerusalem affairs and advocate for coexistence. “No mechanism, whether it’s a procedure, a camera, a technique, whatever, can survive the bad faith of the parties.”

Any delay in defusing tensions is potentially costly. Major Jewish holidays are typically a time of heightened friction, bringing larger numbers of Jewish visitors to the Muslim-run site, and the next Jewish holiday, Passover, is just two months away.

Jordan, the custodian of the shrine, says the camera project is moving forward, but that it’s still in the phase of technical preparations.

The latest round of violence at the site known to Muslims as Haram as-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount erupted in September. Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces quickly led to unrest elsewhere in Jerusalem, across Israel and in the West Bank.

Control of the footage is another contested issue, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported this month. It said Jordan and the Palestinians balk at the idea of allowing Israel to pause or edit the video transmissions.

The video surveillance issue was raised in meetings in Jordan last weekend between Kerry and Abdullah, the U.S. State Department confirmed.

There was no word on whether anything was resolved.

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