Does the recent Jordanian smuggling incident reflect a dangerous development with Amman?
By Amb. Alan Baker and Lenny Ben-David
With the blessing and encouragement of the Iranian leadership, radical Palestinians used the presence of thousands of worshippers at the Al Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem's Temple Mount to incite and generate tension and 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 false basis for such incitement and the fact that groups of fanatics armed with clubs, fireworks, and rocks initiated violence within the holy Mosque, chose to join the choir of political elements condemning Israel.
Such Jordanian statements included an accusation by Jordanian 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 worshipers again, in an attempt to empty [the mosque] of worshipers, 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 worshipers in these blessed days."
Jordan faces a tough internal predicament navigating between its majority Palestinian population, on the one hand, which constantly exerts political pressure to act with hostility towards Israel, and, on the other hand, its ruling Hashemite minority, Bedouin tribes, and aristocracy, which looks at the Hashemite kingdom's broader strategic and global interests, as well as the welfare of its population.
However, even considering that, there can be no excuse for Jordan's irresponsible official statements, which falsely accused Israel of "violating the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque by police forces, and attacking worshipers in an attempt to empty it of worshipers ahead of major invasions of the mosque."
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, but deliberately distorts the actual reasoning behind Israel's concern. Church officials, 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 of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Jordanian leadership is fully aware of the Palestinian strategy, directed from Tehran and transmitted via the Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and Hizbullah terror organizations, to artificially manipulate the Ramadan period to generate situations of violence, unrest, and chaos on the Temple Mount.
Yet despite this awareness and the open and collegial diplomatic relationship it enjoys with Israel, the Jordanian leadership nevertheless 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 peace treaty obligations with Israel.
In its 1994 peace treaty with Israel (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 peace relationship with Israel. Jordan's leaders bear direct responsibility for inciting the foray of Member of Parliament Imad al Adwan to arm Palestinian terrorist cadres, smuggling some 200 assault rifles and automatic military-grade handguns to terrorists in the West Bank. Moreover, Jordan's vaunted intelligence services failed to uncover al Adwan's plot, but was it an issue of nonfeasance or misfeasance?
If Jordan enjoys preferential status based on an official and beneficial political and diplomatic relationship of bon-voisinage with Israel, it cannot at the same time unfaithfully undermine this relationship by espousing false, fake, flawed, and manipulative accusations against Israel. The resultant incitement to violence was directly translated into the murderous actions of a Jordanian member of parliament to arm terrorist attacks against Israel's citizens.
Jordan's delicate strategic status – internally and in the intra-Arab context – should not serve as a cover and pretext for echoing knowingly false and flawed accusations against its neighbor, Israel. 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 to stem this dangerous threat to peace with Israel.
Amb. Alan Baker is Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center and the head of the Global Law Forum. He participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, as well as agreements and peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. He served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as Israel's ambassador to Canada. Lenny Ben-David worked for AIPAC for 25 years in Washington and Jerusalem. In 1997, he left to open an independent consulting firm, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tapped him to serve as Deputy Chief of Staff in Israel's Washington Embassy. He is the author of the book American Interests in the Holy Land Revealed in Early Photographs, and he is completing his next book, Secrets of World War I in the Holy Land Revealed in Early Photographs. He is the Director of the Institute for U.S.-Israel Relations at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.