France will present a Security Council resolution this week on behalf of the Palestinian leadership calling for international observers deployed in Jerusalem, according to senior Palestinian official and member of the PLO executive committee Hanan Ashrawi.
The proposal will seek a civilian monitoring force at the Noble Sanctuary, the holy complex that houses the Muslim sites the Dome of the Rock and the al-Asqa Mosque, and the Jewish sacred site the Western Wall and the location of two ancient synagogues, called the Temple Mount. It is expected to be similar to an Oslo Accords agreement between Israeli and Palestinian leaders to station in Hebron 150 international civilian observers with no mandate for intervention.
Speaking at a briefing in Ramallah today Ashrawi said the draft resolution would be limited to “dealing with the current situation and therefore including observers and condemning the settlements and settlement activities,” noting, “it is not a political initiative that is comprehensive.”
The proposal is scheduled for a vote at the Security Council “before Thursday,” Ashrawi said.
Both the Israel and the U.S. have come out against the resolution, condemning any effort to bring new parties into the now tenuous accord between Israel and Jordan, where Jordan is licensed to safeguard the holy sites plaza. Two weeks ago Jordan announced it would consider recalling its ambassador from Israel, in light of Israeli forces firing dispersants into the mosque during clashes with Palestinian protesters.
“Let me be crystal clear, Israel will not agree to any international presence on the Temple Mount. Such a presence would be a change in the status quo,” Israel’s Deputy Ambassador David Roet said in a meeting of the UN Security Council last week.
“We are not seeking some new change. We’re not seeking outsiders or others to come in. I don’t think Israel wants that. I don’t think King Abdullah and Jordan want that, and we’re not proposing it,” said Secretary of State John Kerry in Spain on Monday.
Secretary Kerry will meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in bi-lateral talks this week, likely in Jordan, in hopes of formulating an alternative to the French initiative.
“I don’t have specific expectations except to try to move things forward. And it would depend on the conversations themselves as to what it is that we’re able to define in the context of steps that might or might not be taken to help people understand that in fact leaders are leading and making a serious effort to try to resolve the current level of conflict,” Kerry said.
American representatives were scheduled to meet with both parties last week at an convening of the Quartet—a Middle East negotiating envoy with representatives from the UN, the US, the EU and Russia. Yet after Israel reportedly rejected the timing of the delegation, the meetings were cancelled.
Palestinian officials said they welcomed discussions with the Quartet.
The status quo over the al-Asqa mosque and wider Noble Sanctuary was brokered between Israel and Jordan following the 1967 war. The terms of the accord forbid Jews from praying at —but not entering—the compound. However, Palestinian leaders say with 12,000 Jewish visitors entering the plaza annually with the protection of Israeli police who do not uniformly prevent Jewish prayer, Israel has in effect already altered the status quo.
“Palestine has been requesting international protection from the United Nations for over a year, but so far it has failed to take action,” wrote Secretary-General of the PLO and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat in an op-ed last week for Newsweek Europe.
Even so, the French initiative is comes amid seething tensions with Jerusalem as a focal point, and al-Aqsa mosque as the symbolic tipping point. In the past two weeks Israeli forces killed 44 Palestinians and one Eritrean, and Palestinian attackers killed eight Israelis. Moreover Israel erected dozens of checkpoints across Jerusalem last week, enacting closures over entire neighborhoods. Palestinians say these curfew hours and identity card checks add another layer of limiting Muslim prayer at the mosque, and are a violation of the status quo.
“Now, as Mr. Netanyahu decides to declare war against Palestinian civilians by adopting a set of collective punishment policies, and the Mayor of the Israeli Jerusalem Municipality Mr. [Nir] Barkat calls upon Israeli-Jews, not necessarily soldiers, to carry their weapons around the city, we can only expect that more violence and oppression will arrive in the coming days,” Erekat continued.
As a permanent member of the Security Council, France is able to put forward initiatives raised by countries who do have a seats on the council. Palestine is a non-member observer of the United Nations.