Commodities: Israel, Jordan Move to Calm Tensions in Jerusalem, Says Kerry — 3rd Update

By Jay Solomon 
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AMMAN, Jordan–Israel and Jordan have agreed to take a range of public and technical steps to clarify the guidelines for jointly managing holy sites in Jerusalem in an attempt to end nearly a month of spiraling violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories, according to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Jordanian counterpart, Nasser Judeh.

As part of this process, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will publicly state in an address on Saturday night that his government will maintain its long-standing policy that bars Jews from praying at the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem’s Old City, which Muslims call Harim al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary.

Mr. Netanyahu will also restate that Israel has no intention to divide the Temple Mount and that his government seeks to increase cooperation with Jordan to manage the religious sites there and improve their security.

Israel and Jordan will establish 24-hour video coverage of the Temple Mount to make clear to Palestinians that the status quo for managing the complex will remain. New meetings between Israeli and Jordanian security officials will commence in the coming days, according to Messrs. Kerry and Judeh.

The Temple Mount is home to the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. It is also where two renowned Jewish temples once stood.

“Now, I hope that based on these conversations we can finally put to rest some of the false assumptions, perceptions about the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount,” Mr. Kerry said on Saturday following meetings in Amman with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “Those perceptions are stoking the tensions and fueling the violence, and it is important for us to end the provocative rhetoric and to start to change the public narrative that comes out of those false perceptions.”

Mr. Judeh said that his government was anxiously awaiting Mr. Netanyahu’s public statements on management of Temple Mount.

“As always in this part of the world, things have a tendency to erupt when there’s a political vacuum and when the arrangements are not watertight,” Mr. Judeh said in a joint appearance with Mr. Kerry.

Palestinian officials said that the steps outlined by Jordan and Israel would help ease the current tension between Israelis and Palestinians. But the moves wouldn’t solve the root cause of the recent violence, which Palestinian officials claim is the continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

“We welcome Mr. Kerry’s efforts, however, a bandage and painkillers will not treat the illness,” said Husam Zumlot, a senior aide to Mr. Abbas. “What will is ending the occupation, colonization, settler violence and the adverse policies by the most extreme Israeli government.”

Mr. Zumlot again called for the start of multilateral talks on a peace deal, in a process similar to one that led to Iran and six world powers to sign a nuclear agreement earlier this year. U.S.-led negotiations for an Israel-Palestinian peace deal fell apart last year after the two sides couldn’t agree on Palestinian demands for prisoner releases and how to resolve Israeli settlements on internationally-recognized Palestinian territory

Mr. Kerry brought to Jordan a set of ideas discussed with Mr. Netanyahu in Berlin on Thursday that are aimed at calming the conflict.

The recent violence in Israel has been driven by perceptions among Palestinians that the Israeli government has been seeking to alter access rights to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to allow Jews to pray there.

Mr. Netanyahu has denied altering the management of Temple Mount, which is jointly controlled by Jordan. The Israeli leader has accused Mr. Abbas and other Palestinian leaders of inciting violence by spreading lies about the situation at the Temple Mount.

Ten Israelis and nearly 50 Palestinians have died during the month of violence. Israeli security offices said that roughly half of the Palestinian dead were assailants, many of whom used knives and cleavers to attack Israeli citizens. On Saturday, a Palestinian was shot dead after he attempted to stab security personnel at a crossing between Israel and the West Bank, according to the Associated Press.

Earlier on Saturday Mr. Abbas said he was hopeful that his meeting with Mr. Kerry could build momentum toward ending the violence. “All the time we have the hope. We don’t lose hope,” the Palestinian leader said ahead of his meeting with the top American diplomat in Jordan’s capital.

Mr. Kerry will travel later on Saturday to Saudi Arabia for consultations with King Salman.

Write to Jay Solomon at

Corrections & Amplifications

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held meetings in Amman with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. An earlier version of this article misspelled Mr. Abbas’s last name.