Thousands of men shouted “Khaybar, Khaybar ya Yahoud” – a call to massacre the Jews – outside al-Aqsa Mosque on Wednesday night, while at Yad Vashem, Holocaust survivors lit memorial candles and Israel’s leaders gave speeches mourning the six million murdered in the Nazi genocide of the Jews.
In other words, at the same time as Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day was beginning, some Muslim worshipers were saying that, actually, mass murder of Jews sounds like a good idea.
This is not an empty threat, as we saw with the wave of terrorist attacks last month and the rioting on the Temple Mount in recent weeks.
The calls to repeat Mohammed’s killing and exile of Jews in the seventh century and the stockpiling of rocks and firebombs inside al-Aqsa took place under the watchful eye of the Jerusalem Islamic Wakf.
And Jordan has the gall to demand that Israel relinquish more control of the mosque to the Wakf.
Just a couple of weeks after Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh expressed enthusiasm for violence against Jews saying he “praises every Palestinian and Jordanian Islamic Wakf worker... who throws rocks at the pro-Zionists,” Amman submitted a paper to Washington to complain about Israel’s actions on the Temple Mount.
Jordan claimed Israel is violating the “historic status quo,” and seeks to have the Wakf take charge of visits by non-Muslims and have as big of a staff as it wants. It also does not like Israel using the term “freedom of worship” when referring to the site, because they view it as implying Jews may pray there.
It reeks of hypocrisy for Jordan to complain that Israel is violating the “historic status quo,” while at the same time asking to change that very same status quo in order to give the Wakf that it funds more control.
But beyond that very obvious oxymoron, there is the question of what the “historic status quo” means. The Hashemite dynasty has been the custodian of Jerusalem’s holy sites since 1924. The 1994 peace agreement between Israel and Jordan says Israel committed to “respect the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem.” Is the entire Temple Mount a Muslim holy shrine, or just al-Aqsa?
Some reports say Jordan wants to go back to the status quo of the year 2000. Non-Muslims were free to visit the Temple Mount for most of 2000, however. Not many did, but they could. It was only after PLO chairman Yasser Arafat decided to use the Temple Mount visit by then-Likud MKs Ariel Sharon and (little-known fact) Reuven Rivlin as an excuse to launch the pre-planned Intifada in September 2000, that the site was closed to Jews.
Perhaps the most telling part of all when it comes to Jordan’s position is the complaint about Israel using the term “freedom of worship” because – God forbid! – those Jews might get the idea that they can pray. They might even think that they’re in charge of Jerusalem. And we wouldn’t want that, would we?
Jordan and the Wakf have a history of denying Jewish rights. The 1929 riots, in which 133 Jews were murdered, were incited by the head of the Wakf, Mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Amin al-Husseini, who distributed pamphlets falsely saying Jews want to take over al-Aqsa after some Jews used a temporary screen to separate women from men during prayers at the Western Wall below.
In the 1949 armistice agreement at the end of Israel’s War of Independence, Jordan formally agreed to allow Jews to pray at the Western Wall, but did not comply for the entire 28 years of its occupation of Jerusalem.
Not only does Amman have no regard for “freedom of worship” for Jews, but they also don’t think it’s legitimate even outside of the Temple Mount for Israel to provide those Jews with security, protesting vigorously whenever Israeli police stop attacks launched from the Temple Mount. King Abdullah pitched a fit in 2017 when Israel installed metal detectors after terrorists brought guns to the holy site and shot two policemen dead.
But Israel and the US – the target of Amman’s demands – don’t have to give in to Jordan’s weeks-long antisemitic tantrum.
So far, they haven’t. Israel maintains the status quo, allowing Muslims to pray and non-Muslims to visit but not pray – for security reasons, not because of an ideological denial of Jews’ human rights.
At the same time, a senior Israeli diplomatic source said Jerusalem is taking its time before talking to Amman about anything more than the most technical elements of this issue, because Jordan is doing more harm than good these days. Plus, the source said, Washington has not asked Jerusalem to do any of the things Amman demanded.
The US has long viewed Jordan’s king as a source of regional stability, to be wrapped in cotton wool and kept happy, and that probably won’t change.
But Israel’s current government will have to reevaluate its recent embrace of Abdullah.
The leadership in Jerusalem had a policy of trying to bolster ties with Egypt and Jordan, in tandem with Abraham Accords countries. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz all visited Amman in the past year, with the latter two trying to work with Abdullah to maintain calm in Jerusalem ahead of Ramadan, which overlapped with Passover. They came out of their meetings optimistic.
That optimism turned out to be unwarranted. Israel would have been able to stomach angry statements from Amman to calm its mostly Palestinian population, the source in Jerusalem said. But direct incitement to violence is unacceptable.
King Abdullah, who Bennett, Lapid and Gantz thought would be so helpful, turned out to be two-faced, lobbying all the Arab countries with Israeli ties to speak out against Israel.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi was always regarded as more reluctant to deepen the relationship with Israel, and that was blatant in his angry response to Israel stopping rioters on the Temple Mount, summoning Israel’s top diplomat in Amman, and spreading false rumors about Israel changing the status quo.
Yes, there are good reasons to reduce tensions with Jordan, the country with which Israel shares its longest border. At the same time, Abdullah is playing a dangerous game. Israel would be derelict in its duty as the Jewish State to let the antisemitism and incitement pass as though it had never happened.