Can surveillance cameras ease the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Jordan and Israel have agreed to install additional security cameras near holy sites at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem, as a 'first step' to decreasing a month of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the city. 

Lefteris Pitarakis/AP/File
Israeli police officers look at screens showing parts of Jerusalem's Old City from about 300 outdoor cameras, Sept. 2004. Jordan's government suggested adding additional cameras to the Temple Mount area to decrease violence during talks with Israel and Secretary of State John Kerry on Saturday.

Discussions about containing recent violence between Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem have led to a proposed technological solution – an increase of security cameras.

US Secretary of State John Kerry called the camera idea "an excellent suggestion."

"This will provide comprehensive visibility and transparency and that could really be a game changer in discouraging anybody from disturbing the sanctity of the holy site," Mr. Kerry said. 

King Abdullah II of Jordan suggested adding security cameras to the Al-Aqsa mosque and Western Wall compound as a way to curb the recent attacks in Jerusalem has experienced in recent weeks.

Kerry said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would announce the addition of the cameras – and affirm an ongoing agreement that non-Muslims may visit the site but not pray there – on Saturday night. A joint Israeli and Jordanian team is set to work on technical details for the security cameras in the next few days.

Jordan hosted the talks in its capitol both because of the working relationship Jordan and Israel have had since signing a peace treaty in 1994, and because Jordan is the compound's official custodian.  

This management of the Al-Aqsa mosque is vitally important to Jordan, where more than half the population identifies as a Palestinian refugee or the child or grandchild of one. The iconic Dome of the Rock structure adorns Jordan's paper money, and the government rejected efforts from wealthier Saudi Arabia to contribute money to a renovation project on the mosque in 1993.

During the Gaza War in the summer of 2014, Jordan's government fought down calls from within its own country to expel the Israeli ambassador, limiting its official response to a pointed comment about "Jordan’s current very cold relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu’s government," the al-Monitor reported.

But when Israel shut down the Jerusalem mosque compound for a single day later that year, Jordan withdrew its ambassador. This was the first such diplomatic withdrawal since Jordan appointed an ambassador to Israel in 1994.

Jerusalem's holy sites have had surveillance from more than 300 cameras since at least 2004, and local police can monitor the closed-circuit coverage 24 hours a day, the Washington Post reported. It is unclear how these additional cameras would change the situation, but the announcement of the new cameras was the first tangible result of the month-long diplomatic discussions.

The violence has shown signs of slowing. Fridays generally see the most violence in Jerusalem, and the day before the talks was relatively quiet. 

The Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh spoke with Kerry, stating that the root cause of the problems is the lack of a Palestinian state, the Washington Post reported, but Kerry said the cameras are a "first step" that can precede other solutions alongside less inflammatory rhetoric by both sides.

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