Damascus Gate Empty amid Temple Mount Tensions, July 21, 2017..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Now that the latest crisis with Jordan has been defused, but while Muslims continue their protest by refusing to pray at al-Aksa, it is urgent for the parties concerned to extend their cooperation in good faith and resolve the issue in an equitable and lasting manner for all.
While all can agree that restoring peace on the Temple Mount is in everyone’s interest, pursuing peace will require a greater effort on the part of the leaders of both Israel and Jordan to first restore reason to the effort. Their first step could be a joint declaration to the Muslim world that Israel has no intention of violating the sanctity of the Aksa Mosque.
It would be appropriate for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to join in making such a declaration. Abbas would also do well to declare to his followers that rabble-rousing calls to avenge Israeli threats to al-Aksa are fake news.
The quick resolution of the attack on an Israeli Embassy guard in Amman is a tribute to behind-the-scenes cooperation among Israel, Jordan and the US – an effort publicly lauded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It is also a reflection of the basic stability of our relations with the Hashemite Kingdom, which have been sorely tested more than once since signing the peace treaty in 1994.
The most grievous crisis between our two countries occurred on March 13, 1997, during Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister, when Jordanian soldier Ahmed Daqamseh murdered seven Israeli schoolgirls on a field trip to the Island of Peace on the Jordan River.
Jordan’s leader at the time, King Hussein, acted immediately with noble compassion and personally made condolence calls to the families of the slain girls and visited the half dozen wounded girls in the hospital. On the other hand, Daqamseh was released early from prison this past March, to public acclaim.
The attack was followed just six months later by the botched Mossad assassination attempt to poison terrorist leader Khaled Mashaal, the head of Hamas, in Jordan. Then-US president Bill Clinton intervened and helped engineer a prisoner swap of the Mossad agents in exchange for Israel freeing Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin.
The release of Israel’s security guard this week once again demonstrates the strength of the ties between the two countries that benefit both, as reflected, for example, in the historic Red Sea-Dead Sea canal project, which benefits Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians. All are to be commended for joining in such a peaceful and productive project, especially during an era when Islamist terrorists are fighting for local and world domination.
Jordan’s special custodial role with regard to the Temple Mount means it must be protective of the Palestinian position, especially since its population is some 80% of Palestinian origin (with almost 2 million of them in refugee camps 70 years later). This, however, means that Abdullah should assert his kingly authority to act in their best interest by truly assuring their security.
This recent crisis with Jordan takes place nearly exactly 20 years after the Mashaal crisis in 1997. Then, too, Netanyahu was prime minister and then, too, a trade was made to release the Israeli agents. While we supported the government’s initial decision to install metal detectors at the entrances to the Temple Mount, there is a lesson for Netanyahu to learn from recent events.
The government which he leads would have benefited from in-depth consultations prior to the police installing the metal detectors – Netanyahu took personal credit for making the decision to install them – by carefully reviewing the strategic ramifications such a move would have on Israel’s ties with Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and the wider Muslim world. Israel, for example, could have quietly tried to reach understandings with the Wakf Islamic trust, Amman and Ramallah on taking steps to improve security over the Temple Mount after the attack almost two weeks ago that killed two policemen.
Instead, Israel shot from the hip and acted before thinking through the full consequences of installing the detectors. The cameras it is now talking about in places throughout the Old City will anyhow take months to install.
In the meantime, Netanyahu and Abdullah managed to salvage a deal that allowed both to claim victory in the embassy shooting crisis. They can still make a better deal for the future.