By Dr. Saleh Al-Naami*
No one condemned the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, Tzipi Hotovely, when she called for the Israeli flag to be raised at the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa shortly after the announcement of an agreement between Jordan and Israel regarding arrangements for the presence of Muslims and Jews in the compound. This agreement was reached under American auspices. In the eyes of many Zionist elites, the agreement legitimises Israel’s plans to enhance and hasten the pace of Judaising the compound. It is unfortunate that Jordanian officials, including King Abdullah II, were quick to celebrate the agreement on the basis that it ensured that the status quo in Al-Aqsa would not be changed.
However, Israel openly plans to change the status quo, and the Israeli government explicitly supports the plans to destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque and build a temple on its ruins. Jordan should have considered the official Israeli report that Haaretz newspaper referred to on 30 October, which confirms that Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is currently providing funding for 19 Jewish organisations which specialise in “rebuilding” the temple. According to the report, the most dangerous of these organisations is the Temple Institute, headed by Rabbi Yisrael Ariel and Rabbi Yehuda Glick, who is invited by the ruling Likud Party’s parliamentary bloc to all of its meetings. There is no doubt that the clearest sign of Netanyahu’s success in misleading the Jordanian leadership and tricking it into believing that he is concerned about preserving the status quo at Al-Aqsa is the fact that Haaretz reported that the Israeli government organises annual trips for tens of thousands of Jewish students to visit the institute in order to learn from its chairmen about the preparations being made to build the third temple. The students also receive explanations about the institute’s role in preparing for future servants of the temple.
Needless to say that such behaviour suggests that Netanyahu’s government is working on reinforcing religious convictions within Jewish youth. The government presents the construction of the temple as the achievement of Jewish salvation. It is ironic and significant that the agreement with Jordan regarding Al-Aqsa was signed coincidentally with the Israeli Ministry of Education’s decision to teach a new course that reinforces students’ awareness of the importance of building the temple on the ruins of Al-Aqsa. The course portrays this move as “leading to resolving all of Israeli society’s problems.” (Haaretz, 23 October 2015) Does it seem logical that a government doing such things would be serious about respecting the status quo in the Noble Sanctuary?
Jordan should not have fallen for the Israeli trap and agreed to allow Jewish “visitors” to enter Al-Aqsa, as if these visitors were tourists coming to discover and learn about the area. The Hashemite Kingdom is responsible for guarding the Muslim holy sites; it is fully aware that the Zionist organisations desecrating the sacred area openly express their religious beliefs, which dictate that the construction of the temple on Al-Aqsa’s ruins is one of the main Jewish duties. Israel’s Minister of Agriculture, Uri Ariel, leads the desecration campaigns; he left no room for doubt when he said that they aim to reinforce the sole Jewish right to the sanctuary, and have been carried out with the approval and blessing of Netanyahu. (Makor Rishon, 23 October 2015) The Zionists insisted on embarrassing Jordan when they revealed that Amman’s celebration of Netanyahu’s promise to prevent Jews from praying in Al-Aqsa was nothing more than another example of Tel Aviv’s disregard for the Jordanian leadership. This was clear after the Joint List Alliance MK, Basel Ghattas, was successful in sneaking into Al-Aqsa Mosque and documenting Zionist Jews desecrating Al-Aqsa and performing Talmudic prayers there after the agreement was signed. Israel’s disregard for Jordan and Netanyahu’s failure to give weight to the promises he made to the political leadership in Amman is nothing new; ten months ago, Netanyahu personally made promises to King Abdullah II to stop the desecration campaigns organised by Israeli politicians. However, less than a month later, Ariel “prayed” in Al-Aqsa and posted a video of this on his personal website in order to double the provocation.
Unfortunately, it looks as if the Jordanian-Israeli agreement was nothing more than an attempt to contain the Jerusalem Intifada, as it delegitimises the Palestinians’ right to resist the systematic desecration campaigns that aim to establish the temporal division of the Noble Sanctuary. Any attempt to combat the settlers who are desecrating Al-Aqsa after the agreement would be considered proof of the Palestinians’ “hostility”. Meanwhile, the agreement does not include any mechanisms for the measures that can be taken when the Jews violate the agreement, which has actually occurred and was documented by MK Ghattas. The agreement with Jordan dropped the French initiative, which had called for deploying international observers in Al-Aqsa. This caused fear within the ruling elites in Tel Aviv because the UN Security Council’s adoption of the initiative would result in the “internationalisation” of the conflict. At the same time, the agreement allowed Israel to single out the parties that are combatting its attempts to change the status quo in the sanctuary, particularly the Islamic Movement led by Shaikh Raed Salah. Netanyahu has announced that he is serious about working towards outlawing the movement and banning its activities. It is worth noting that the war against this movement is ongoing, and the latest attack is the sentencing of Shaikh Raed to 11 months in prison.
In the face of what is happening, the Jordanian leadership should reconsider the agreement that the Zionists are using to implement their declared plans to Judaise the Noble Sanctuary of Al-Aqsa. There is no need to reiterate the strong cards that Jordan holds and its ability to utilise them to pressure Tel Aviv’s leaders to change their policies and plans regarding Al-Aqsa. We know that these plans will be crushed by the boulder of the Palestinians’ insistence on thwarting them and their refusal to surrender.