Friday, July 14, 2017

A red line for Jordan - Nadav Shragai

by Nadav Shragai

Over the past several years, Jordan has repeatedly besmirched Israel with falsehoods and libelous allegations, resulting in a growing number of anti-Israeli U.N. resolutions.

Is Israel treating Jordan with kid gloves? Does Israel cut the Hashemite Kingdom too much slack even though Amman is now spearheading anti-Israel efforts on the world stage, alongside the Palestinians? 

Jordan's Minister of State for Media Affairs Mohammad Al Momani recently boasted that the kingdom was the driving force behind UNESCO's decision to declare Hebron's old city an endangered Palestinian world heritage site. Over the past several years, Jordan has repeatedly besmirched Israel with falsehoods and libelous allegations, resulting in a growing number of anti-Israeli U.N. resolutions. 

Jordanian diplomats' main focus is Jerusalem, and particularly the Temple Mount: Jordanian media regularly reports ludicrous claims about Israel's alleged actions at the site, including the libelous assertion that Israeli encroachment is threatening the Al-Aqsa mosque. Even the preposterous claim that Israel is allowing settlers to "conquer" the site and alter the status quo has become prevalent in the Jordanian media. 

And yet, Israel has let the Jordanian behavior slide. After all, there are economic, security and economic considerations at stake that Israel does not want to jeopardize. But above all, the "handle-with-care" approach is meant to ensure the monarchy's stability. The unofficial explanation for this posture is that Israel needs Jordan. But while this may be true, Jordan needs Israel as well. In the grand scheme of things, both countries need the other. For obvious reasons, I cannot go into details on the exact nature of the ties. 

To ensure that this special relationship thrives, Israel has been willing to make concessions on the Temple Mount. Over the last several years, Jordan has become a de-facto administrator of the site. In 2014, Jordan and Israel struck an agreement on how the site was to be governed. This agreement, made possible through U.S. mediation, all but made Jordan's presence on the mount official. Jordan also has a written agreement with the Palestinian Authority that makes the kingdom the representative of the Palestinian interests in the city until a Palestinian state is established, with Jerusalem as its capital. But Jordan's agreements with Israel and the Palestinians are often incompatible with one another, and this is clear on the world stage, where Jordan is determined to prove its anti-Israeli chops as a means of obtaining a Palestinian stamp of approval.

Perhaps this is good time to remind the Jordanians of the dubious "tolerance" they exhibited during their 19-year occupation of Judea and Samaria between 1948 and 1967. For example, they chose to blatantly violate their written pledge to allow Jews to visit holy sites beyond the border, including the Western Wall and Rachel's Tomb. Under their watch, tens of thousands of Jewish graves on Jerusalem's Mount of Olives were vandalized or demolished to make room for rudimentary toilets, trails and stairs. Dozens of synagogues and yeshivot were destroyed as well during that period, to ensure that the city's Jewish heritage was erased. Jordan also destroyed the cemetery in Hebron, where the victims of the 1929 Jewish massacre were buried, and used it to grow vegetables, with bones occasionally appearing among the crops. The famous Avraham Avinu Synagogue in Hebron was turned into a public bathroom and a goat pen. Meanwhile, Jordanians took over the yeshivot and synagogues in the two Jewish quarters -- in Hebron and in Jerusalem -- and turned them into homes.
There is nothing wrong with reminding people of Jordan's actions, and Israel should not be reluctant to employ this tactic. Israel also has every right to arrest the administrators on the Temple Mount whenever they incite to violence. The Israel Police has justifiably done so and the officers should have our support. 

A red line must be drawn when it comes to the Jordanian-led efforts on the Temple Mount, to make it clear that the site is under Israeli sovereignty and must be subject to Israeli laws. Israel should also drive home the message that under Israeli control, the Muslims and Christians in the city can worship freely and that the religious freedom they enjoy is a world apart from what the Jordanians allowed. 

Nadav Shragai


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