One of the critical tasks Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will face in the coming weeks is reducing the tensions between Israel and Jordan. These increased significantly during Ramadan following the violence in the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Palestinian youths who had barricaded themselves inside the mosque were planning to attack the police and Jews visiting the Temple Mount. Police dispersed teens with force, in full view of the cameras.
In January 2023, immediately after taking office, Netanyahu flew to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah. At the center of the conversation was the issue of the security situation on the Temple Mount and the royal demand to maintain Jordan’s position as the guardian of the holy places in Jerusalem, as required by the peace agreement between the two countries. Netanyahu promised the king that the status quo on the Mount would be maintained.
During the month of Ramadan, there was a deterioration in Jordan’s relations with Israel following the violent events on the Mount. As expressed in Jordan’s diplomatic rhetoric, the Jordanians saw the Israeli activity as a violation of Jordan’s position as the guardian of the holy places in Jerusalem and an attempt to impose a division of the Temple Mount between Muslims and Jews, as was done at the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron in 1994.
Jordanian sources say that the change in tone of the official diplomatic rhetoric came at the orders of King Abdullah, with the aim of containing the great anger on the Jordanian street and in the parliament toward the government for not taking stronger measures against Israel or expelling the Israeli ambassador from Amman.
The Jordanian government strongly condemned Israel for what happened on the Temple Mount, accusing it of escalation. Jordan initiated an emergency meeting of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to discuss developments on the Mount and in eastern Jerusalem.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi stated that there would be no peace in the region if the Palestinian people did not receive their rights. He emphasized that Jordan would not give up and would not conduct any negotiations on its position as guardian of the holy places in Jerusalem.
Al-Jazeera reported that Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi refused three times to receive phone calls from Israeli officials during the crisis at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. He also refused a request from Israel conveyed to him through an intermediary for the Jordanian Waqf on the Temple Mount to assist in evacuating Palestinians who had barricaded themselves in the Al-Aqsa Mosque overnight.
Senior Israeli officials accuse the Jordanian foreign minister of being a force behind the worsening relations between the the two countries, and of displaying an anti-Israel stance, perhaps to promote himself to the position of prime minister in the future.
About 70 percent of Jordan’s population is of Palestinian origin, and every event on the Temple Mount provokes them and is exploited by Islamic elements to incite against Israel.
The Biden administration made a political effort in preparation for Ramadan and initiated two security meetings in Aqaba, Jordan and Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, with the participation of representatives of the United States, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Egypt, to try and maintain calm during Ramadan, but the effort failed.
The United States acted in the United Nations to block the passage of an anti-Israel statement by the Security Council on the situation on the Temple Mount. Political officials in Jerusalem accused the Waqf, which is subordinate to the Jordanian government, of failing in its duty and not cooperating with Israeli efforts to prevent the provocations and violence of Palestinian youth.
Senior political figures stress that Israel has no interest in worsening relations with Jordan, with whom it has a peace agreement. Netanyahu will work to calm tensions between the two countries after Ramadan, the sources say.
The Biden administration is also pressuring the Hashemite royal house to moderate its public statements against Israel and return to calmer relations.
A senior political official emphasized that Netanyahu’s promise to King Abdullah stands and that Israel will not harm the status quo on the Temple Mount.
Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israeli radio and television, is a senior Middle East analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He served as Director General and Chief Editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
Originally published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.