The current leader of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a well-polished man named King Abdullah II, who has reigned since the passing of his father in 1999. In recent years, he has aggressively sought to claim “special” rights in the holy sites of Jerusalem, well beyond his reach.
King Abdullah II of Jordan
In May 2017, King Abdullah II addressed the United States President Donald Trump and said:
“the Hashemite Custodianship of Jerusalem’s Islamic and Christian Holy Sites is an unbreakable, historical responsibility and an honour to undertake on behalf of the Arab and Muslim nations.”
There were several problems with his claim:
- Jordan has no custodianship over Christian sites
- Jordan does not have exclusive custodianship
- Jordan’s actions underscore that it is not “responsible” as it’s words are very “breakable”
- Jordan’s basis for custodianship relates to its funds and efforts regarding improvements to the site, which Israel has in abundance regarding the Old City of Jerusalem, (which Jordan opts to ignore)
- Jordan negotiated those custodian rights with Israel, yet has undermined Israel’s authority in Jerusalem
Here are some details.
Christian Holy Sites in Jerusalem
In July 1994, Israel and Jordan signed a peace agreement. Within that treaty was language that related to Jordan’s role at Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem (Article 9.2):
“In this regard, in accordance with the Washington Declaration, Israel respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem. When negotiations on the permanent status will take place, Israel will give high priority to the Jordanian historic role in these shrines.”
There was no mention of any Christian sites.
Jordan’s Non-Exclusive Role
The Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty gave Jordan special rights for: 1) Muslim holy sites for 2) Arab and Muslim Nations. However, the treaty gave Jordan nothing as it related to 1) Jewish holy sites, for 2) the rest of the non-Arab and non-Muslim world.
While the al Aqsa Mosque that sits at the southern tip of the Temple Mount is an exclusively Islamic site, the rest of the Temple Mount – including the location of the Dome of the Rock – are Jewish holy sites. Jordan has no special rights over such Jewish holy sites and nor any authority over non-Arab and non-Muslim visitors.
Jordan’s Abrogation of Key Components of the Israel Peace Treaty
Jordan has violated the underlying spirit of the peace treaty with Israel in various manners. In August 2017 the Jordanian Foreign Minister and the Waqf were critical of the 1,000 Jews that went onto the Temple Mount on Tisha B’Av saying “This is unprecedented, unacceptable and should stop.” But they have no rights to prohibit any Jew from ascending to the Temple Mount. Article 9.1 of the treaty underscored the point:
“Each party will provide freedom of access to places of religious and historical significance.”
Additionally, King Abdullah’s July 2017 statement that Israel was trying to “Judaize” Judaism’s holiest space was an abrogation of Article 9.3 of the peace treaty which stated:
“The Parties will act together to promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions, with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, freedom of religious worship, and tolerance and peace.”
Jordan’s statements and actions were in direct violation of every sentiment of the peace treaty executed by his father and the Jewish State, as he sought to undermine Jewish history and rights on the Temple Mount.
The Deceit of the Jordanians and Palestinians
On March 31, 2013, King Abdullah II signed a treaty with the acting-President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas about Jordan’s role regarding the holy sites in Jerusalem. In that treaty, the parties asserted that the entirety of the Temple Mount was exclusively an Islamic site, and had no ties to other religions:
“Recalling the unique religious importance, to all Muslims, of Al Masjid Al Aqsa with its 144 dunums [the land size of the Temple Mount], which include the Qibli Mosque of Al Aqsa, the Mosque of the Dome of the Rock and all its mosques, buildings, walls, courtyards, attached areas over and beneath the ground and the Waqf properties tied-up to Al Masjid Al Aqsa, to its environs or to its pilgrims (hereinafter referred to as “Al Haram Al Sharif”);”
How do either the Jordanians or Palestinians believe that they are promoting “religious understanding, … tolerance and peace,” when they publicly step on Jewish history and faith?
It is also interesting to note that the Jordanian agreement with the PA also never discussed any Jordanian role with Christian holy sites.
“Historical responsibility” of Jordan and Israel
To this day, Jordan continues to state that the very presence of Israel in Jerusalem is a threat to Arabs and Muslim holy sites, and refuses to acknowledge that Jerusalem and the Temple Mount have been anchored in Jewish history for over 3000 years.
Consider language on King Abdullah’s website called “Custodianship over Holy Sites.”
“The Hashemites have stood up against Zionist claims to Jerusalem, which pose a direct threat to the Arab city and its cultural heritage.”
How does Abdullah make such a statement while also acknowledging Israel’s role in Jerusalem in its peace treaty? Is Jordan’s treaty with Israel only based on Israel’s de facto existence and presence in Jerusalem? If Jordan believes that Israel has no role or place in Jerusalem, why have sections in the peace treaty specifically discussing Jerusalem?
The website goes on to discuss the long history of Jordan in fixing up various parts of Jerusalem, including Christian and Muslim holy sites:
“His Majesty’s attention was not limited to Islamic holy sites; he personally helped put out a fire that nearly destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 1949. All throughout his reign (1921-1951), King Abdullah I was the guardian and custodian of Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.”
The “investments” made by Jordan in the Old City of Jerusalem, pale in comparison to the investments made by the government of Israel since it reunited the city in June 1967. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent in city improvements. By such measure alone, Israel’s rights throughout the city trumps any claim by Jordanians or Palestinians.
Whose “Illegal Occupation”
In July 2017, Jordan was effective in pushing forward a UNESCO decision that condemned Israel’s excavations in the Old City such as the City of David, and recommitted to the claim that Jerusalem’s Old City walls were in “danger.” The Jordanian embassy added that “The resolution stated that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the holy city of Jerusalem, and in particular, the “basic law” on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith…. He also said that the decision, which Jordan presented jointly with Palestine through the Arab group at the committee, emphasised that all Israeli procedures and violations in East Jerusalem are null and void under the international law.”
It is a strange hypocrisy that Jordan claims that Israel’s annexation and role in the Old City of Jerusalem is illegal and not recognized by the international community, when Jordan’s annexation of the eastern half of Jerusalem and the “West Bank” in 1950 was itself not recognized by any country (other than itself, the UK and Pakistan).
The King of Jordan claims that his country has a special role in the Old City of Jerusalem and that he advances peace even though:
- Jordan’s “special role” does nothing to undermine the rights of Jews at its holiest site
- Jordan’s investment in Jerusalem pales next to Israel’s investment
- Jordan’s annexation of the Old City of Jerusalem was less legal than Israel’s annexation of the eastern part of the city in1980
The King of Jordan is eloquent but deceitful. He shrouds himself in words of peace as he stirs up a religious war at Judaism’s holy site.
Abdullah has begged both Israel and the Palestinian Authority for some special status in the Jerusalem’s Old City, and each party has agreed to give him some role as a neutered and neutral party. But as Abdullah stretches the meaning of his role and undermines the essence of the peace treaty, it is time for Israel to reconsider Jordan’s role and reassert the Jewish State’s rights and responsibilities at Judaism’s holiest spot.
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