Jordan recalls envoy from Israel over 'unprecedented escalation in Jerusalem'

Official state media says the envoy is being returned home due to Israeli policies on Temple Mount.

Jordanian opposition members burn a picture of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Amman (photo credit: REUTERS)
Jordanian opposition members burn a picture of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Amman
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Jordan recalled Ambassador to Israel Walid Obeidat for consultations in Amman to protest Israeli “aggression” on the Temple Mount and in Jerusalem in general, further fraying its already tense relationship with the Jewish state.
“Recalling our ambassador for consultation is an indication of the seriousness of the situation. Calm has to be restored, Israel has to respect the sanctity of the holy sites and I think this will resonate today,” Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said.
The Jordanian government took that decision after “what we have seen in the Aksa Mosque compound, not just in the last 24 hours but over the last period in general, [which] is just way beyond the limits,” Judeh said in Paris on the sidelines of a pre-scheduled meeting held with US Secretary of State John Kerry.
“We have sent repeated messages to Israel directly and indirectly that Jerusalem is a redline,” the Jordanian foreign minister continued, citing “continuous violations and incursions,” “stopping people from worshiping freely and allowing extremists to come in under the protection of the Israeli police and so many other violations.”
He warned that Israeli actions were “infuriating the emotions and the sensitivity of 1.5 billion Muslims around the world.”
According to the Jordanian news agency Petra, Judeh handed Kerry a “comprehensive dossier documenting the ongoing Israeli provocations and violations that breach all international laws and conventions.”
In Paris, Kerry said: “We obviously believe that peace between Israel and Jordan is central to stability in the region, and we are in touch with both sides on this matter and hope that all parties will draw back and reduce these tensions.”
Before meeting with the secretary of state, Judeh spoke of the need for “a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, at the core of which is the Palestinian-Israeli [conflict].”
“I think this is what we will want to work on achieving, so that we don’t have another Gaza and we don’t have these continuous violations and unilateral actions,” he said.
In Jerusalem, Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon urged Amman to retain its ambassador in Israel.
“We regret Jordan’s decision, which won’t calm the situation.
In fact, it will do the opposite,” Nahshon said. “We expect Jordan to condemn the premeditated violence, which is directed from Ramallah, and the murder of innocents it has caused.”
Jordan issued the statement on recalling its ambassador after Israel closed the Temple Mount to Muslim worshipers for 15 minutes Wednesday morning in response to violent rioting in the Aksa Mosque compound.
The Temple Mount was also closed last Thursday in response to the attempted assassination of right-wing activist Yehudah Glick.
The statement coincided with Wednesday’s fatal vehicular terrorist attack on the light rail line along the seam where the city had been divided.
From 1948 to 1967, the Temple Mount, the Old City and east Jerusalem were part of Jordan. Its current leader, King Abdullah II, considers his family the custodian of the city’s Muslim and Christian holy sites.
In its peace treaty with the Jordanians, whose 20th anniversary was marked just last week, Israel recognized that Jordan had a special status concerning the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.
An Israeli official said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was working to calm the situation and to pressure right-wing politicians to act responsibly so as not to play into the hands of extremists. Some of these politicians have called on the government to allow Jews to pray on the Temple Mount and or to make Israeli sovereignty over the site clear.
The Aksa Mosque is under the control of the Wakf Islamic religious trust and only Muslims can worship there, but Jews and Christians can visit. Earlier this week Netanyahu said the arrangement would not change. An Israeli official on Wednesday clarified that the status quo there would be maintained.
Jordan is Israel’s strongest and most stable ally in the Middle East, but there have been tense periods in the past where the ambassador was briefly recalled.
Reuters contributed to this report.