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Time to hold Jordan accountable

If the regime in Amman continues to forbid Jews and Christians to pray freely on the Temple Mount and fails to extradite terrorist Ahlam Tamimi to the U.S., Washington should stop treating it with kid gloves.

King Abdullah II of Jordan. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
King Abdullah II of Jordan. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Farley Weiss
Farley Weiss is chairman of the Israel Heritage Foundation (IHF) and former president of the National Council of Young Israel.

A point highlighted as a result of the recent United Arab Emirates-Israel agreement is that it will allow Muslims to fly from Dubai to Israel and see that the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is open for prayer, contrary to the false narrative propagated in Arab circles.

In fact, the real problem on the Temple Mount is Jordan’s and the Islamic Wafq’s anti-Semitic opposition to Jewish and Christian prayer in the large public area outside the mosque. Even if there is a dispute in Jewish law as to whether Jews today should pray on the Temple Mount, the policy that, in essence, treats Jewish and Christian private prayer as offensive is a type of hatred and bigotry that should not be condoned and sanctioned. It is therefore not surprising that the Muslim Wafq has felt emboldened in its hatred towards Jews and Judaism to even oversee unauthorized actions that led to the discarding of Jewish artifacts from the Temple Mount.

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem stands above the Western Wall and is the most important and holiest religious site for the Jewish people. It is the location of the previous two Jewish Temples.

The holiest sites in Islam are in Saudi Arabia, in the cities of Mecca and Medina.  When Jews pray, they face the Temple Mount in Jerusalem; when Muslims pray, they face Mecca. The Al-Aqsa Mosque, where many Muslims come to pray and which some consider to holy to Islam, is a small part of the Temple Mount.

Jordan occupied eastern Jerusalem, which included the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, by capturing it in 1948, after launching a war, with other Arab countries, to prevent the creation of the State of Israel. At the time, Jordan reneged on its commitment to allow Jews to pray freely at the Western Wall and destroyed or desecrated 58 synagogues in eastern Jerusalem, as well.

Eastern Jerusalem was not enough for Jordan, so in 1967, Jordan attacked West Jerusalem in the Six-Day War, despite pleas from Israel to stay out of the war. Israel was able to rebuff Jordan’s attack, and in response was able to succeed in liberating and unifying both parts of the city. Israel annexed eastern Jerusalem, and recently the United States finally recognized Israeli sovereignty over it. Jews are now able to pray freely pray at the Western Wall, and Christians are now also able to pray freely at their holy sites in Jerusalem.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan calls for Jordan to have an official role on the Temple Mount, as it is an unofficial one now and mentioned in the Israel-Jordan peace agreement. However, the Trump plan also calls for allowing the freedom of worship for Christians and Jews on the Temple Mount, which Jordan opposes.

American administration officials describe this desire for freedom of worship on the Temple Mount as an aspiration, as they are aware that Jordan opposes freedom of prayer there. These officials have made it clear that the Trump Plan is not set in stone, and that changes to it could be made if the Palestinian Authority decides to negotiate.

One of the plan’s architects, former Trump adviser Jason Greenblatt, further said that Israel also could request changes. Clearly, one such change should involve authority on the Temple Mount, due to Jordan’s abysmal record.

This record is not only poor where religious discrimination on the Temple Mount is concerned, however. Just a few years ago, Jordan asked UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee to reclassify the Western Wall as a Muslim site, and also attempted to classify the Tomb of the Jewish patriarchs and Matriarchs, both the Cave of Machpela in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb near Bethlehem, as solely Muslim holy sites, with only Muslim names.

If Israel was to have any Arab Muslims deal with issues on the Temple Mount, wouldn’t it have made sense for them to be Muslims who accept the historical fact of the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, and who would allow Jewish and Christian prayer there?

Jordan does have one important Jewish historical site on its territory: the tomb of Moses’ brother, Aaron, the former Kohen Gadol or High Priest. Aaron is prominently mentioned throughout the Bible as being with Moses on his visits to Pharaoh’s palace and announcing the plagues commemorated in the Passover Haggadah. He is considered one of the greatest people in Jewish history. Jordan could have an enormous amount of tourists just to visit this important site, but instead it has an anti-Semitic policy that prevents Jewish prayer there.

Religious tolerance and defending the freedom of religion are foundational principles. Even before the UAE agreed to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, it already publicly stated that it would establish a synagogue for its Jewish residents and tourists. While the UAE is taking steps to show that it is a country welcoming to Jews and Israel, and accommodating Jewish prayer, Jordan perpetuates a policy opposing the freedom of worship of Jews at Aaron’s Tomb.

While much of the Arab world has been starting to change its attitude toward Israel, King Abdullah of Jordan has not been following the change that his father, King Hussein, had begun. King Hussein launched an attack on Israel in 1967, but after Israel agreed to his urgent request and intervened to save his regime in 1970 by stopping Syrian troops from supporting his attempted ouster by the Black September terrorist organization, Hussein changed his attitude.

On March 16, 1997, he paid condolence calls to seven Israeli families whose daughters were murdered by a Jordanian soldier. Instead of hailing the soldier as a hero, Hussein imprisoned him, and offered financial compensation to his victims.

Juxtapose his actions with those of his son and the Jordanian Parliament. On March 12, 2017, King Abdullah released the Jordanian soldier, Ahmed Dagamseh, despite his lack of remorse for murdering the seven Israeli school girls. In March 2019, Jordanian M.P. Khalil Atiyeh stood up during a parliamentary session and saluted the 18-year-old terrorist who fatally stabbed 19-year-old Israel Defense Forces Sgt. Gal Keidan and shot and killed Rabbi Achiad Ettinger, a father of 12.

A few years earlier, in November 2014, the Jordanian Parliament held a moment of silence in memory of the two Palestinian terrorists who were killed after slaughtering five people in an attack inside a Har Nof synagogue.

Meanwhile, Jordan is still providing a safe haven to terrorist Ahlam Tamimi, who was involved in the August 2001 suicide bomb attack at a Jerusalem restaurant that killed 15 people, including two U.S. nationals. Tamimi was indicted and put on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list, but Jordan has repeatedly refused U.S. extradition requests, which so far have not resulted in negative ramifications.

It is possible that the U.S. attitude toward Jordan and Tamimi may finally be changing. Recently nominated U.S. Ambassador to Jordan Henry Wooster responded in writing to a question about Tamimi from Senator Ted Cruz as follows: “The United States has multiple options and different types of leverage to secure Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi’s extradition. We will continue to engage Jordanian officials at all levels not only on this issue, but also on the extradition treaty more broadly. U.S. generosity to Jordan in Foreign Military Financing as well as economic support and other assistance is carefully calibrated to protect and advance the range of U.S. interests in Jordan and in the region.”

Asked specifically if aid to Jordan would be part of that leverage, Wooster replied: “If confirmed, I would explore all options to bring Ahlam Aref Ahmad Al-Tamimi to justice, secure her extradition and address the broader issues associated with the extradition treaty.”

Actions speak louder than words. Jordan’s refusal to extradite Tamimi despite its extradition treaty with the U.S. is not the action of a U.S. ally against terrorism. Former U.S. President George W. Bush once said, after 9/11, that the U.S. will treat terrorists and those who give safe haven to terrorists as equally morally culpable. Jordan is giving a safe haven to Tamimi.

Jordan needs to change its ways. It must show that it opposes terrorism by extraditing Tamimi to the U.S. and by ending its opposition to Jewish and Christian prayer on the Temple Mount and at Aaron’s Tomb. If it fails to do so, the U.S. should make it clear that Amman will no longer be treated with kid gloves, and that aid for the regime will no longer be the same.

The Trump administration has made many great decisions in relation to Israel, such as recognizing Jerusalem as its capital, recognizing Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights and stating that settlements are not illegal under international law. It also withdrew from the disastrous Iran deal, closed the U.S. Consulate in eastern Jerusalem and signed the Taylor Force Act to stop giving aid to a Palestinian Authority regime that incentivizes the murder of Israelis through a “pay for slay” policy.

When it comes to Jordan, however, Washington needs to replace the failed policy followed by many previous presidents.

Farley Weiss is president of the National Council of Young Israel. He is an intellectual property attorney for the law firm of Weiss & Moy.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.

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