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Does the Jordanian smuggling incident reflect a dangerous development with Amman?

The kingdom's officials have joined in the incitement, including broadcasting the lie that Israel seeks to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque.

Muslims attend Friday prayers on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, March 24, 2023. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.
Muslims attend Friday prayers on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, March 24, 2023. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.
Alan Baker and Lenny Ben-David

With the blessings of the Iranian leadership, radical Palestinians recently used the presence of thousands of worshippers at the Al-Aqsa mosque on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount to incite violence by repeatedly broadcasting the false accusation that Israel intends to destroy the mosque. This, in turn, led to waves of violence and terror against Israelis and Jews throughout the area, requiring Israel’s police to act to restore order.

Jordan’s irresponsible official statements

No less regrettable is the reaction by the Jordanian leadership, which, despite being fully aware of the nonexistence of any basis for such incitement and the fact that groups of fanatics armed with clubs, fireworks and rocks initiated the violence within the mosque, chose to join the choir of political elements condemning Israel.

Jordanian statements included Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi alleging unprovoked aggression against peaceful Palestinian worshippers, adding, “Israel is pushing us into the abyss of violence and undermines the peace treaty with Jordan.”

In a similar statement, Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sinan al-Majali threatened:

“Should the Israeli police assault worshippers again, in an attempt to empty [the mosque] of worshippers, in preparation for major incursions into the mosque,” it would “push the situation towards more tension and violence, for which everyone will pay the price.

“The Israeli government bears responsibility for the escalation in Jerusalem and in all the occupied Palestinian territories and for the deterioration that will worsen if it does not stop its incursions into the holy Al-Aqsa mosque…and its terrorization of worshippers in these blessed days [of Ramadan],” al-Majali said.

Jordan faces a tough internal predicament navigating between its majority Palestinian population, on the one hand, which constantly exerts pressure to act with hostility towards Israel, and, on the other hand, its ruling Hashemite minority, the Bedouin tribes and the aristocracy, which look at the Hashemite Kingdom’s broader strategic and global interests as well as the welfare of its population.

However, even considering this, there can be no excuse for Jordan’s irresponsible official statements.

The libel that Israel sought to prevent Christian worship

In similarly false and exaggerated allegations, Jordanian officials have accused Israel of preventing Christian access to holy sites in Jerusalem.

The implication that Israel sought to prevent worship during the Orthodox Christian Easter festival at the holiest Christian sites is not merely false, it deliberately distorts the reasoning behind Israel’s concern. Officials at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, including its safety engineers, warned of the safety and fire dangers inherent in an overly large number of people gathered in the relatively limited space in the church.

The Jordanian leadership was fully aware of the Palestinian strategy, directed from Tehran and transmitted via the Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah terrorist organizations, to manipulate the Ramadan period to generate violence, unrest and chaos on the Temple Mount.

Yet despite this awareness and the open and collegial diplomatic relationship Amman enjoys with Israel, the Jordanian leadership allowed itself to join the fanatical Islamic bandwagon and be drawn into echoing the false propaganda and hostility towards Israel, in clear violation of its obligations under the peace treaty with Israel.

Under the 1994 treaty (Article 9), Jordan enjoys special, preferential status on the Temple Mount concerning the Muslim holy shrines. However, neither Jordan nor any other country has been granted preferential status regarding Jerusalem’s Christian holy sites.

In fact, in the peace treaty, both parties undertook to “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 official statements are aimed at achieving precisely the opposite.

The power of one Jordanian to destroy the peace

Such behavior by the Jordanian leadership, replete with false and exaggerated statements against Israel, is unwarranted, unjustified, and threatens to undermine the integrity and mutual trust inherent in its peaceful relationship with Israel. Jordan’s leaders bear direct responsibility for inciting the attempt by member of Parliament Imad al-Adwan to arm Palestinian terrorists by smuggling arms across the border. Moreover, Jordan’s vaunted intelligence services failed to uncover al-Adwan’s plot, but was the failure intentional or unintentional?

If Jordan enjoys preferential status based on an official and beneficial good-neighbor relationship with Israel, it cannot at the same time undermine this relationship by spouting false, fake, flawed and manipulative accusations against Israel. The resultant incitement to violence directly translated into the murderous effort by a Jordanian member of Parliament to arm terrorists for attacks against Israel’s citizens.

Jordan’s delicate strategic status—internally and in the intra-Arab context—should not serve as a pretext for knowingly echoing false accusations. In doing so, Jordan risks prejudicing the extensive benefits in many spheres that it enjoys from its peace treaty with Israel.

King Abdullah II would be well-advised to exercise his authority and bring an end to this dangerous threat to peace.

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