Jerusalem is a ticking time bomb, whereby an attack by Jewish extremists on Muslim holy sites could erase any chances for peace with the Palestinians and undermine stability in the entire Muslim world, Jordan's US ambassador, Zeid Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein, told the Washington Post in an interview published Thursday.
Referring to clashes between security forces and Arab rioters in Jerusalem in recent weeks, the Jordanian envoy explained that the Hashemite kingdom was worried those events could lead to another incident like the 1969 fire at the Aksa Mosque. That blaze was set by Australian Denis Michael Rohan, a Christian, who was arrested and later found to be mentally ill.
"We are worried that in the short term, something like this might happen," he said. "It would unleash emotions of an extreme nature, [and] the consequences would be very severe."
He went on to warn that the US did not seem to realize the serious ramifications such an incident could have on the peace process and on the entire region.
The threat of an attack on sites such as the Aksa Mosque compound "is the real showstopper [and] the issue that can turn US policy on its head," Zeid reportedly said, but "there is no discussion about this in Washington... Something is not working right."
The Jordanian diplomat said that the two-state solution was pointless if the Israeli government refused to discuss the status of the capital.
"If Jerusalem is left out of the mix, if you can't negotiate Jerusalem, there is no deal, even if you negotiate other components," he said. "Why should [the Palestinians] want to engage? There is no purpose behind it. What possible benefit could Arab countries get from it?"
Zeid predicted that if the Palestinians lost faith in the two-state vision, they would focus their efforts on becoming Israeli citizens in hopes of eventually becoming a majority.
"If you can't have a two-state solution because of Jerusalem, can anyone think of any other way?" he was quoted as saying.