Feb 20 2014

Jordanian Diplomacy and Public Protests Produces Results in Protecting Al Aqsa

Published by at 11:36 am under Articles,Jordan


Following appeared in the Jordan Times

By Daoud Kuttab

Jordan succeeded this week to force the Israeli Knesset to cancel a discussion planned for Tuesday regarding Al Aqsa Mosque.

The public debate was initiated by the deputy speaker of the Israeli legislature, Moshe Feiglen, and was intended to focus on the issue of sovereignty over the third holiest place in Islam.

Rightwing Israelis want to remove any non-Israeli control over the mosque area.

Al Haram Al Sharif, built in the seventh century, is a walled area that spans 144 dunums and includes two mosques (the silver-domed Al Aqsa Mosque and the gold-covered Dome of the Rock), as well as court areas, an Islamic museum, a Sharia Islamic court and other facilities.

The cancellation of the Israeli Knesset session followed what appeared to be a well-orchestrated public, private and governmental approach.

Jordan’s Parliament got the ball rolling initially, with a strong statement by its Palestine committee threatening to cancel the Israeli-Jordan treaty if the status of the revered Islamic site is changed.

Jordan’s treaty with Israel clearly specifies the Hashemite Kingdom’s unique role in protecting the status of holy shrines in Jerusalem. Furthermore, a Palestinian-Jordanian agreement that recognises Palestinian sovereignty over occupied Jerusalem accepts the role of the Hashemites as guardians of Islamic and Christian holy places in Jerusalem.

The statement of the parliamentary committee was followed by two boisterous sessions in Parliament, in which legislators of all backgrounds spoke out against the intended actions of Israeli extremists.

The prime minister, Abdullah Ensour, while stating that no decision had been taken, informed parliamentarians and the Jordanian public that the issue is being handled diplomatically and that the Israelis were reminded of their obligations in the peace treaty.

He said that Israelis “can’t pick and choose” which clauses in the treaty they want to respect.

King Abdullah is reported to have communicated privately with the Israelis and the Americans on the issue.

Various Jordanian civil society organisations echoed similar sentiments and the weekly Thursday anti-Israeli protest in Al Rabia, near the Israeli embassy, also reflected Jordanians’ opposition to any change in the status quo of Jerusalem’s old city.

This small success to temporarily stem the rightwing Jewish onslaught on Jerusalem’s holy places is not likely to be the end of the story.

Rightwing elements continue to have a majority in the ruling Likud Party and have a strong presence in Netanyahu’s coalition government.

Various rightwing individuals and groups in Israel wish to change the situation of what they call the Temple Mount, despite legal, political and even religious opposition.

In 1967, Israel’s chief rabbi issued a declaration banning Jews from stepping foot in Al Aqsa Mosque area for fear that they would be defiling areas that were once the Jewish temple and which might contain sacred items.

The ruling has been renewed recently, yet the Islamic waqf recorded in 2013 an increase in unauthorised Israeli infiltrations into the mosque area.

Abdallah Abadi, head of the Jerusalem department in the Islamic waqf, told Radio Al Balad Monday that 63 infiltrations were recorded in 2013.

Abadi said that Jordan, which pays the salaries of 600 Islamic waqf officials, has increased the number of guards that are stationed outside the mosques’ gates from 167 to 180.

Islamic waqf guards, who are responsible for protecting the holy site, have to cooperate with Israeli police who guard the mosque at the gates. Israel, however, has retained exclusive control over the Moghrabi gate, which is connected by a bridge to the Western Wall area, and it is from this gate that Israeli rightwing infiltrations take place.

If properly invested, this modest Jordanian success can be built on to stitch together an understanding that can lower the political and religious temperature in Jerusalem and possibly help improve the atmosphere towards a more comprehensive peace agreement.

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