Jordan's response to al-Aqsa clashes is unacceptable - editorial

Israel, as Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said without mentioning the Hashemite Kingdom by name, expects more from Jordan. As it should.

 Palestinians attend Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, on April 1, 2022.  (photo credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90)
Palestinians attend Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, on April 1, 2022.
(photo credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90)

The Aqsa Mosque is not in danger. At least not in any danger from Israel.

Reasonable people – in the country, the region and the world – understand this. Contrary to rumors that always spread during the time of the three Jewish pilgrimage festivals, when Jews flock to the Western Wall, Israel does not have a secret plan to undermine the mosque.

Israeli scientists – a rumor Yasser Arafat helped disseminate in 2000 – are not working on creating an earthquake that will bring it down. Archaeological digs in the area are not meant to bring about the mosque’s collapse so the Third Temple can be built on its ruins. And “settlers” are not about to storm it.

It’s all a canard, and not a particularly original one, since it stretches back at least a century to Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini.

The deadly 1929 riots started because such a rumor was spread. Likewise, the idea that the Zionists had designs on the mosque was used as fuel to fire up the masses in the Second Intifada 71 years later. And Raed Salah, head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, has been spreading that lie ever since to foment discontent among Israel’s Arab minority.

 THE MUGHRABI Bridge that leads to the Temple Mount compound with the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock seen in the background in Jerusalem’s Old City.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) THE MUGHRABI Bridge that leads to the Temple Mount compound with the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock seen in the background in Jerusalem’s Old City. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Just because something is absurd, however, does not mean it is not deadly. The blood libel in the medieval ages was a ridiculous slander, but it nonetheless led to the killing of countless Jews. So, too, has the “Aksa is in danger” libel led to hundreds of deaths over the last century.

Arafat called the paroxysm of violence and suicide bombings he orchestrated in 2000 the al-Aqsa intifada. He could have called it anything. Why the al-Aqsa intifada? Because he knew what would resonate with his people.

What is needed now is for responsible leaders and countries to dispel the lie, not add to it. And that is what makes recent comments by Jordan’s King Abdullah and Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh so infuriating.

Speaking from Germany where he underwent back surgery, Abdullah said Israel’s “unilateral” moves against Muslim worshipers undermined the prospect of peace, and he blamed Israel’s “provocative acts” at the Temple Mount compound for the current tension.

And in an outrageous speech to the Jordanian parliament, Khasawneh said: “I praise every Palestinian and Jordanian Islamic Wakf [religious trust] worker who stands tall like a turret and those who throw rocks at the pro-Zionists who are defiling al-Aksa Mosque while under the security of the Israeli occupation government.”

Really?

What “provocative acts’’ against Muslims was Abdullah referring to exactly? Trying to keep Palestinian youth incited by Hamas from hurling rocks down on Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall 62 feet below?

As for al-Khasawneh, he sounded downright Iranian using the term “pro-Zionists” to refer to those Jews who were the target of rocks thrown by the Palestinians and Jordanian Islamic Wakf workers he so praised.

This type of rhetoric is to be expected from Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority. But from Jordan, a country with whom Israel has had a peace treaty dating to 1994? A country with whom Israel has a strategic relationship that greatly benefits both sides? A country that gets badly needed gas and water from Israel? A country involved in a long fight with its own Islamic fanatics (ISIS and Muslim Brotherhood) who twist religion and religious symbols to commit acts of violence?

Israel, as Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said without mentioning the Hashemite Kingdom by name, expects more from Jordan. As it should.

It should expect that its peace partner to the immediate east work to douse flames, not pour fuel on them.

“Here is the truth: Israel does everything so that everyone can always celebrate the holidays in security – Jews, Muslims and Christians,” Bennett said. “We expect from everyone that they do not join the lies, and certainly not encourage violence against Jews.”

Ever the diplomat, Bennett did not specifically call Jordan out because he did not want to create any more tension with such an important partner. We can afford to be less diplomatic. If Jordan wants to be treated like a friend, it should act and – yes – speak like a friend. The comments coming from its officials over the last few days have been  anything but friendly. Israel needs to make it clear that this is utterly unacceptable.