Bennett’s inflammatory statement on Al-Aqsa threatens an already precarious relation

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Jordanians protest Israeli attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque in downtown Amman in this undated file photo. (Photo: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)
AMMAN — The Jordanian-Israeli relationship could reach a dangerous boiling point following Sunday’s announcement by Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that there will be no foreign interference concerning the fate of the “Temple Mount”, i.e., Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, and that decisions on Jerusalem will be made solely by Israel. اضافة اعلان

His statements were seen as a deliberate breach of Jordan’s custodianship role over the Muslim site, something that no other sitting Israeli prime minister has previously done.

The statement was made in response to Arab Israeli MK Mansour Abbas’ declaration on Sunday that His Majesty King Abdullah is the only party responsible for all matters relating to Al-Aqsa Mosque. It was the first official Israeli declaration against the Hashemite custodianship over Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.

Israel had recognized Jordan’s special historical role over Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem in the 1994 peace treaty.

By end of business day Monday there was no official response by the Jordanian government. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates spokesman Haitham Abu Al-foul did not answer Jordan News calls.

The Lower House Palestine Committee issued a statement on Monday condemning Bennett’s statement, saying that such comments are bound to ignite regional religious wars and upset the historical and spiritual reality in Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem.

Mohammad Al-Thahrawi, the committee’s spokesman, warned against the continuing Israeli assault on Al-Aqsa Mosque and urged Bennett not to test the patience of two billion Muslims.

The committee reiterated Jordan’s absolute rejection of the historical and geographical division of Al-Aqsa. It stated that it will “stand firm in the face of direct and indirect pressures” to which it is subjected, stressing that “Jerusalem will remain the eternal capital of Palestine”.

The Lower House Foreign Affairs Committee also issued a statement on Monday condemning Bennett’s statement, which, it said, points to “a barbaric mentality” whose basis is the continuation of the occupation of Palestinian lands.
Bennett’s statement reflects the true intention of the Israeli right-wing party, which aims to transform Jerusalem into a Jewish city.
The committee said that such statements would provoke hundreds of millions of Muslims in different parts of the world who will consider this “a coup against Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem’s historic and religious realities”.

The committee also stressed that “Palestinians have sovereignty over Jerusalem” and that “the guardianship of its holy sites is Hashemite, being assumed by His Majesty King Abdullah who commits all the capabilities of the Kingdom to protect it”.

Political analyst Labib Kamhawi told Jordan News that Bennett’s statement reflects the true intention of the Israeli right-wing party, which aims to transform Jerusalem into a Jewish city.

“They want Jerusalem to be only for the Jews. But the issue is bigger than the Hashemite custody,” Kamhawi said.

According to Kamhawi, a set of factors encouraged Israel to reopen discussion about taking over Jerusalem and its endowments, such as the increasing weakness of the Arab and Islamic worlds and the significant pressure exercised by the right-wing political parties on the Israeli government.

“Jordan is fighting alone; there is no one by its side. Arabs and Muslims do not care about the issue, so there is no deterrent that could prevent the Israelis from publicly announcing this,” Kamhawi added.

He noted that the Council of Islamic Endowments in Jerusalem, part of the Jordanian Ministry of Awqaf, have been sidelined. He added that the Israeli goal is not only to divide Al-Aqsa Mosque but to demolish it and build a Jewish temple on its site. 

“We have to work on preventing the crisis, not wait for the crisis to happen. This requires strategic thinking that we do not have. The issue is much bigger than Jordan. Therefore, Jordan has to gather Arab and Islamic support to have a stronger position, since being alone in this fight will not produce any results,” Kamhawi stated.

Political analyst and columnist Amer Al-Sabaileh told Jordan News that Bennett’s statement is not diplomatic, and only aims to escalate an already bad situation. According to him, this announcement is propaganda to appeal to Israel’s right wing, since Bennett’s government is currently fragile and the prime minister is facing opposition from his mainly right-wing coalition.

“It does not mean that it (the Israeli threat) will materialize, as Israelis did not take any concrete steps like firing the Jordanian Council of Islamic Endowments in Jerusalem,” Sabaileh said.

He added that Jordan is aware of the diplomatic tension with Israel, and that the two countries have to work to contain any escalation since it is not in the interest of anyone to have it reach a boiling point.

“Deep down, Israel knows now that Jordan is important. Therefore, I do not take this escalation seriously. It is only propaganda, without any action, and the security coordination between the two countries has not been impacted,” Sabaileh stated.

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