by Daniel Siryoti
King Abdullah issues instructions to expand joint council for the management of the Temple Mount to include PA, Fatah officials
The Palestinians and the Jordanians have established a joint council to manage the Temple Mount and holy sites in Jerusalem as the first step of a plan to torpedo the Trump administration's "deal of the century" for peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis, Middle East analyst Yoni Ben-Menachem of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs has discovered.
Ben-Menachem calls the decision a "move that violates the Oslo Accords and strikes a dangerous blow to Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem."
Senior officials in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' office and the Fatah movement confirmed to Israel Hayom that cooperation with Jordan has been stepped up recently, ahead of the expected publication of U.S. President Donald Trump's peace plan.
A senior Palestinian official told Israel Hayom that the joint council was a step taken in response to understands reached between King Abdullah of Jordan and Abbas in August 2017, following the metal detector crisis on the Temple Mount.
A few days ago, under instructions from Abdullah, the Jordanian government approved an increase in the number of council members. It will now number 18 instead of 11. In addition, with Jordan's approval, the council will now include senior Palestinian political officials and Fatah members.
Palestinian officials said Israel could prevent the expansion of the council, but thus far had refrained from doing so. The officials said Israel did not want a diplomatic crisis with Jordan just before the Trump peace plan was due to be presented.
According to the Palestinian official, Ramallah is hailing the council as a "historic change" to Jordan's policies. Jordan has not taken any similar step since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1994.
Fatah officials said that Jordan and the Palestinians were afraid that the Trump peace plan would transfer responsibility for what is known as the "holy basin" of Jerusalem – the Old City and its surroundings – to a joint Arab Islamic authority while giving the Saudis special status at Al-Aqsa mosque.
However, a high-ranking Arab diplomat told Israel Hayom that the move was made with the approval of both Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and was actually intended to blunt Palestinian objection to the peace plan.
At the end of February, American advisers Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt are expected in the Middle East for a tour to lay down the groundwork for the peace plan, which the administration is expected to roll out after Israel's Knesset election on April 9.
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