THE ISRAELI security cabinet decided on Monday night, after massive Palestinian demonstrations and international protests, to remove the metal detectors which had been installed on July 14th, along with turnstiles and security cameras at the entrances of the Al Aqsa Mosque compound. It also decided to replace them with more advanced surveillance technology.
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that Israeli authorities had installed smart cameras – which are able to recognise faces – and X-ray security scanners on Monday. Since 1994 the Muslim and Christian site in the Jerusalem compound has been under the joint custodianship of the state of Jordan.
By their unilateral action in imposing these repressive ‘security measures’, along with the forcible closure of the site for two days and arbitrarily cancelling Friday prayers, the Israeli occupiers tore up this internationally recognised agreement, proclaiming themselves sole sovereign rulers of occupied East Jerusalem.
This Israeli aggression provoked massive Palestinian demonstrations and solidarity actions and protests throughout the Arab world and in many other countries, including the US and the UK. The United Nations meanwhile, warned Israel that the recent tensions caused by the restrictions imposed on the Al Aqsa Mosque would have a catastrophic outcome.
UN Middle East Envoy Nickolay Mladenov on Monday said: ‘I call on the parties to refrain from provocative actions, show restraint and work towards finding a solution. It is extremely important that a solution to the current crisis be found by Friday this week. I think the dangers on the ground will escalate if we go through another cycle of Friday prayers without a resolution to this current crisis.’
Also on Monday, Jordan’s King Abdullah II called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to remove the security measures. The call was made during a phone conversation with Netanyahu in which the king stressed ‘the need to find an immediate solution and remove the reasons for the ongoing crisis at the Haram al-Sharif (Al Aqsa) compound.’
According to a Jordanian statement, Abdullah called on Netanyahu to stop the ‘new measures taken by Israel since the start of the latest crisis.’ He also highlighted ‘the importance of an agreement on any measures to prevent a repeat of this escalation in the future.’
In its statement, the Israeli security cabinet said it had ‘accepted the recommendation of all of the security bodies to incorporate security measures based on advanced technologies (“smart checks”) and other measures instead of metal detectors in order to ensure the security of visitors and worshippers in the Old City and on the Temple Mount’ – using the Israeli term for the Al Aqsa compound.
Religious leaders in Jerusalem held a meeting yesterday to discuss the new Israeli plan, after Islamic endowment (Waqf) official Sheikh Raed Daana said on Monday that both religious leaders and the Palestinians wouldn’t accept any changes to the status quo.
The Israeli plan will reportedly take up to six months to implement, and cost an estimated 100 million shekels ($28 million). In the meantime, the cabinet said that Israeli police forces’ increased presence in the Old City would be maintained, adding that the plan could include hiring additional officers ‘in accordance with the recommendation of the police.’
It is clear that unless all of the cameras and other technologies are removed from the Al Aqsa site there will be a massive explosion of anger in Jerusalem and in many Arab and western capitals this coming Friday.
The UK trade unions and the TUC must immediately call and organise a massive picket of the Israeli embassy for next Friday and demand that all surveillance measures at the Al Aqsa Mosque be immediately removed.
The trade unions must also demand that the UK government apologise for the UK’s role, through the Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate, in establishing the state of Israel, and must immediately recognise the state of Palestine, with Jerusalem as its capital, and with all illegal settlements removed.