On Jerusalem, Jordan cannot remain idle
The Israeli government, which day by day is unveiling its unreliability as a peace partner, has other ambitions
The question that always resurfaces when there is a new assault by Israeli extremists on Al-Aqsa compound is: What can Jordan, custodian of Jerusalem’s Muslim holy sites, do to stop Jewish settlers’ frequent incursions into the third holiest site in Islam?
With the Jewish settler assaults on the Al Haram Al Sharif site (the "Noble Sanctuary", also known as Temple Mount) becoming a frequent act of provocation in recent weeks, Amman has toughened its position, stressing that it is ready for all options to prevent Tel Aviv’s plotting to change the status quo in Jerusalem. How the Amman-Tel Aviv relations would be affected is another question entirely.
On Jordan’s options to address Israeli provocations, I believe an all-out war is definitely absent. It is politically a costly option for both sides and is strategically linked with a set of factors in the region, including the Syrian conflict, Hezbollah’s involvement, the Iranian nuclear deal and Russia’s moves in the region. Even the hardline anti-Israel Jordanians – and there are many – have hardly ever called on their government to wage war against Israel, fully mindful of the region’s complicated politics.
The Israeli government, which day by day is unveiling its unreliability as a peace partner, has other ambitionsRaed Omari
However, there are voices in Jordan calling for freezing the Jordanian-Israeli peace agreement, citing as evidence Tel Aviv’s alleged violations of the 1994 deal’s provisions, under which Israel is obliged to respect the Hashemite custodianship over Jerusalem’s holy sites.
A harsher stance?
These voices, even from within conservative political circles, are weary of merely recalling the kingdom’s ambassador to Tel Aviv, instead urging tougher procedures to oblige Israel to abide by the peace provisions. I was once told by a right-wing Jordanian politician, also highly conservative, that Israel is sure that a Jordanian response to its unilateral acts in Jerusalem will not exceed recalling Jordan’s ambassador to Tel Aviv or expelling the Israeli ambassador in Amman.
“They [Israelis] are certain of our [Jordanian] conventional response and have been thus acting unilaterally in Jerusalem,” he said. But the Wadi Araba Peace Treaty is not only apply to Jerusalem but includes other peace components such as land and water, which seem to not be a matter of dispute between the two signatories. Plus, I do not believe that Jordan is willing to go back to the state of war or state of 'no peace, no war' with Israel which freezing the peace deal would automatically entail. If peace with Israel has proved to be not that rewarding for Jordan, then how would it be if they were at war?
For the time being, diplomacy is Jordan's only tool to press for an end to the Israeli assaults on Al Haram Al Sharif. Jordan has succeeded in highlighting the Al-Aqsa Mosque issue at the U.N. Security Council which has issued a statement recently calling for full respect for the sanctity of Al Haram Al Sharif, noting the importance of Jordan’s special role, as engrained in the peace treaty. The council members also stressed that the status quo of Al Haram Al Sharif should be maintained and visitors should be without fear of violence or intimidation. The Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported that it was the first time the phrase “Al Haram Al Sharif” was used in 15 years by the Security Council - mostly due to Jordan’s intensive diplomatic efforts.
But will Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hard-right coalition ever play a part in halting the Jewish settler assaults on the Al Aqsa Mosque compound? The answer is probably no. The Israeli government, which day by day is unveiling its unreliability as a peace partner, has other ambitions.
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via [email protected], or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2
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