After Israel’s ambassador to Amman was summoned on Monday for reprimand over the riots on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Jordanian Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh praised “every Palestinian who throws rocks and every Islamic Wakf worker who stands tall against the pro-Zionists defiling the Al-Aqsa Mosque under the auspices of the Israeli occupation government.”
Rather than call Al-Khasawneh to task for openly inciting violence in an official address to the Jordanian Parliament – especially during Ramadan, when Muslims are supposed to focus on faith, spiritual contemplation and self-discipline – King Abdullah II complained to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that Israel was committing “provocative acts [that] violated the legal and historic status quo” on the compound.
The falsehood that Israel is storming and trying to take over the Aqsa Mosque is an ongoing antisemitic propaganda ploy with multiple aims. One involves the rejection of ancient Jewish ties to the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. Another is to obfuscate the fact that Israeli security forces were, as they always are, dispatched to the area solely to prevent the very deadly activities that Jordan’s premier is unabashedly encouraging.
A third is to fan Muslim flames within and beyond Israel’s borders whenever it suits the Hashemite Kingdom to do so. Finally, the fabrication is aimed at minimizing the enthusiasm of the Sunni states that signed or tacitly back the 2020 Abraham Accords with Israel, brokered by former US president Donald Trump.
Theoretically, this makes no sense. Jordan inked a peace treaty with Israel in 1994 and has greatly benefited from it.
Furthermore, as recently as November, Jerusalem and Amman reached a major solar-power-water cooperation deal, brokered by the United Arab Emirates, the first signatory, along with Bahrain, to the historic normalization agreements.
Still, pragmatism is rarely the key driving force in the Middle East, especially when it comes to Israel. Nor is this the first time that Jordan, which has been relying on Israel for desalinated water since well before the 1994 treaty, has issued warnings about Zionist designs on the Temple Mount.
But under the current circumstances, with an administration in Washington reversing all the policies of its immediate predecessor – chief among them in relation to Iran – and a collapsing coalition in Jerusalem with conflicting worldviews, Mideast leaders have been treading with caution. Their greatest fear, after all, is hitching their wagon to a weak horse.
However, they are experts at playing fast and loose with the truth. For instance, they know full well that it was Palestinians and radical Arab Israelis, not Zionists, who spent three days this week desecrating the mosque.
They have seen the widely circulated footage of young Muslims amassing rocks and planks inside Al-Aqsa, trampling on the carpets of the hallowed house of worship with their shoes and playing soccer amid the rubble. And though many Muslims in Israel and elsewhere took to social media to express outrage at the dishonor, the Jordanian prime minister championed the young men who turned the sacred space during a somber holiday into a fun-filled hate-fest.
Nevertheless, even the UAE followed Jordan’s lead. Not only did the Gulf state summon its first-ever Israeli ambassador, Amir Hayek, for a dressing-down, but Etihad Airways and Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, the two Emirati airlines that were slated to take part next month in Israel’s Independence Day civil flyover, canceled their attendance.
The reason for the about-face was Israel’s “aggressive actions.” Rather than confronting the absurd allegations through the projection of strength, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett made a mealy-mouthed statement.
“Israel is doing everything so that everyone can always celebrate their holidays safely – Jews, Muslims and Christians,” he said. “We expect everyone not to join the lies and certainly not to encourage violence against Jews.”
Without referring to Jordan specifically, Bennett went on to criticize those who “blame Israel for the violence against us – those who encourage throwing rocks and violence against the citizens of the State of Israel. This is unacceptable. It is a prize for the inciters, foremost among them Hamas, which is trying to spark violence in Jerusalem.”
FOREIGN MINISTER Yair Lapid adopted an equally powerless stance. After speaking on the phone with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, he recounted having “emphasized Israel’s responsible and measured efforts in the face of riots by hundreds of Islamic extremists on the Temple Mount,” and insisted that Israel “would not tolerate calls for violence.”
Oh dear. Al-Khasawneh and Abdullah must have been shaking in their boots – double-time when they heard that Lapid had impressed upon Blinken the “need for international support to restore calm to Jerusalem.”
International support? Where from, exactly? The Israel-bashing Security Council?
Perhaps he was angling for a helping hand from Blinken himself, who last month “discussed [with Bennett] ways to foster a peaceful Passover, Ramadan and Easter across Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, particularly in Jerusalem... [such as] working to prevent actions on all sides that could raise tensions, including settlement expansion, settler violence, incitement to violence, demolitions, payments to individuals convicted of terrorism [and] evictions of families from homes they’ve lived in for decades.”
All one needs to grasp just how wrong the thinking and behavior of Bennett, Lapid and their American counterparts has been is a review of the period leading up to and responsible for the Abraham Accords. On April 30, 2018, then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed the nation a trove of tens of thousands of documents obtained by the Mossad from a warehouse in Tehran.
It was on the basis of this massive archive, which provided proof of Iran’s clandestine nuclear-weapons program, that Trump announced on May 8, a mere eight days later, that he was withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 nuclear deal between the P5+1 countries and the Islamic Republic.
Less than a week after that, on May 14, the US officially relocated its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The inauguration date was set to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence.
May 15 was Nakba Day, the Palestinian commemoration of the “catastrophe” of Israel’s establishment in 1948. That afternoon, the US blocked a UN Security Council statement calling for an investigation into Israel’s killing of Palestinians during Hamas-spurred protests along the Gaza border.
The gesture signified Trump’s certainty that the deaths had been the result of defensive Israeli actions. Then came the start of Ramadan the following day.
Despite threats and warnings that the above would spark a tsunami of Arab riots, the embassy opening proceeded with barely a whimper.
On June 1, the Trump administration vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for “international protection” for Palestinian civilians. The veto indicated an understanding that the only Palestinian “civilians” at risk of harm were those attacking Israelis with rocks, knives, Molotov cocktails and rockets.
On August 31, the Trump administration confirmed the halting of funds for UNRWA. On September 10, it closed the Palestine Liberation Organization mission in Washington and subsequently revoked the visas of the PLO envoy and his family members, forcing them to leave the US.
On September 17, it cut funding for conflict resolution programs aimed at bringing about reconciliation between Fatah in the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in Gaza, and for Jews and Arabs in Israel.
On March 25, 2019 Trump signed a presidential proclamation recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. And on April 8, he designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization.
Throughout his tenure, he also refused to be fazed or swayed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s attempts at manipulation. He made it clear to the little despot in Ramallah that there was a new sheriff in the White House.
It was his unapologetic assertion of American superiority and Israeli legitimacy that gave the Sunni states the courage to jump on the Abraham Accords bandwagon and a sense of a shared mission against Iran.
The sharp U-turn that the US has taken under President Joe Biden, coupled with the game of catch-up being poorly played by Bennett and Lapid, is unraveling that confidence. As a microcosm of erosion, the Temple Mount travesty bodes ill.