Selfish interpretations can ruin agreements

In his classic 1950 movie Rashomon, legendary Japanese filmmaker Akira Korosawa tells a story about witnesses and participants in a murder and rape that give alternative, self-serving and contradictory versions of the same crime.
I was reminded of that movie after the announcement of the details of the P5+1 Iranian nuclear “agreements” by the various negotiators. Based on statements and subsequent actions by all the interlocutors, it’s clear that the 109-page text of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) has undergone major changes in favor of Iran, as demanded by Iran’s supreme leader, especially in the areas of sanction relief, inspection, verification and military development and acquisition.
With Europe, Russia and China already fully open for business with Iran, contrary to the agreement, it seems like everyone has a different version of what was actually agreed on.
This brings me to the freshly minted Temple Mount Understanding, which is supposed to help stop the current wave of violence in Israel.
It won’t.
Background: The current violence started with the incitement of Palestinian president Abu Mazen and several Muslim preachers who falsely claimed that Israel was planning to change the 1967 “Status Quo” arrangement regarding the Temple Mount. The Status Quo states clearly that:

  • 1. Custodianship of the whole upper level Herodian compound, including the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque, is in the hands of the Jordanian Waqf — The Islamic Holy Trust committee under the authority and administration of the King of Jordan.
  • 2. Israel is responsible for security and order, in coordination with the Waqf.
  • 3. Jews and Christians are strictly forbidden from praying anywhere on the compound, though they can visit during open hours.

The Western Wall, like all the supporting walls Herod built around the Temple Mount, is not part of the Status Quo.
So what is the Temple Mount Understanding?
After a marathon series of phone calls, John Kerry flew to Jordan last Saturday for meetings with King Abdullah ll and Abu Mazen. After consultation with Netanyahu, Kerry said that Israel had accepted a proposal by Jordan’s monarch, custodian of the Al-Aqsa compound, for round-the-clock monitoring by cameras.
According to Reuters, Kerry said that such surveillance “could really be a game-changer in discouraging anybody from disturbing the sanctity” of the Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa site. There was no immediate comment from Abbas, though Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Abbas had told Kerry “that he should look into the roots of the problem — and that is the continued occupation.”
Speaking to his cabinet Sunday, Netanyahu said Israel “has an interest in cameras being deployed everywhere on the Temple Mount” to refute claims that it is changing the status quo.
“The Temple Mount will be managed as it has been until now. The visits by Jews to the Temple Mount will be maintained, there will be no change to the status quo,” Netanyahu stressed.
According to The Associated Press, Netanyahu said such surveillance on the plaza — where stone-throwing protests against Jewish visits often break out — would also “show where the provocations are really coming from” and thwart them from the outset.
Saeb Erekat, ignoring the fact that the Jordanians will be installing the cameras and the Waqf will be monitoring them said: “He (Netanyahu) wants to install cameras in order to monitor and arrest our people; he is lying and lying.”
Azzam Khatib, director of the Jordanian Waqf, the religious body that runs the site, said the footage would be streamed on the Internet “so the world would see what is going on inside Al-Aqsa.”
A U.S. official said Israeli and Jordanian technical officials would discuss who would conduct the video monitoring. No date for consultations was announced.
But just monitoring what happens 24/7 on Temple Mount, especially with Jerusalem’s cold and windy winter setting in, will do very little to stop the everyday lone-wolf terrorist attacks, incited and provoked by religious and secular leaders and social media, that continued this week unabated throughout Israel and the territories, far from the Temple Mount.
Just hours after Kerry’s announcement, the yet unsigned Temple Mount–Al-Aqsa “Understandings” were already being “understood” differently by the different sides, just like the JCPOA.
I hope I’m wrong, but it seems to me that the “Rashomon Syndrome” is becoming a deliberate strategy tool of U.S. foreign policy, replacing “red lines” and “unbreakable” commitments.
Agree or disagree, that’s my opinion.
Lt. Col. (IDF res) Gil Elan is President and CEO of the Southwest Jewish Congress,and a Middle East analyst. Email:
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DISCLAIMER: Opinions are the writer’s, and do not represent SWJC directors, officers or members.

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