Is Jordan really the custodian of the holy places of Jerusalem?


Israeli occupation forces arrested the director of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Sheikh Omar Al-Kiswani, as he entered the Noble Sanctuary on Tuesday. He was humiliated and searched before being allowed to enter the Muslim holy site.

Last week, Israeli occupation forces delayed Britain’s Middle East minister, Lord Tariq Ahmad, for more than half an hour while he was visiting Al-Aqsa Mosque. The minister was subjected to a lengthy security check at the Lion’s Gate (Bab Al-Asbat).

The occupation state went further on Wednesday when it barred Jordan’s ambassador to Israel, Ghassan Majali, from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque, claiming there had been no coordination for his visit. Witnesses saw the Israeli military policy surrounding Majali as his bodyguards tried to prevent them from touching the ambassador and clear the way for him, but the police insisted on sending him back.

In response, Amman called on the Israeli ambassador to protest the humiliation of his ambassador. Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Sinan Majali said a “strongly worded letter of protest” had been handed to the Israeli ambassador “which should be immediately handed over to his government”.

He stated that the letter made it clear that “the Kingdom condemns all measures aimed at unacceptable interference in the affairs of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and reminds Israel that the Jordanian-led Jerusalem Awqaf and Al-Aqsa Affairs Department has the exclusive has authority to manage the affairs of the sacred site and access to the site.”

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Majali noted that the letter emphasized the importance that “Israel, as an occupying power, must abide by its obligations under international law … with regard to Jerusalem and its holy sites and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in particular.” The letter pointed out that Jordan is the official and internationally recognized custodian of Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.

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This may be true in terms of the letter of the law, but the reality on the ground is very different. I report almost every day on Israeli violations against the Palestinian people and their land and property, as well as the holy sites “under Jordanian supervision”. From what I observe, I can say that Jordan is under the power of the Israeli occupation and has nothing to do with Jerusalem. It has not even been able to protect its own national honor and dignity there, as the incident with the ambassador showed.

Since expelling the Jordanians from East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has dominated the people, land and holy sites of the occupied territory, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the world’s third holiest site for all Muslims, and the Church. of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the holiest places for Christians.

As an occupying power, apartheid Israel has an obligation under international law to maintain the status quo in occupied Jerusalem until its final status is determined through peaceful negotiations. That status quo arose from events from 1948 onwards.

In 1948, Zionist terror gangs occupied West Jerusalem and its neighborhoods, seizing 85 percent of the city. Jordan controlled the old city and some neighborhoods and villages, accounting for 11 percent. The remaining 4 percent was considered no man’s land where the UN headquarters was located. According to the 1947 UN Partition Plan for Palestine, Jerusalem was to become an international city.

After the establishment of the occupation state, Israel declared West Jerusalem its capital and Jordan annexed East Jerusalem to the West Bank, which was under its control. Both acted in violation of the UN Partition Resolution.

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In 1967, Israel occupied the rest of Palestine, including the Egyptian-controlled Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. The occupying state duly annexed East Jerusalem and extended its sovereignty over the entire Holy City. That annexation has never been recognized in international law.

Under international law, Israel is indeed a belligerent occupier of the territories beyond the recognized borders in effect at the beginning of June 1967, which were based on the 1949 Armistice (“Green”) line. As such, according to the UN and legal experts, it is obliged to act in the occupied territories in accordance with international humanitarian law.

Articles 4 and 47 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prevent belligerent occupiers from annexing the occupied territories or imposing their sovereignty over them. The status quo mentioned above must be maintained.

The Jordanian guardianship followed the decision in 1924 by the Supreme Muslim Council, the highest Muslim body responsible for affairs of the Muslim community in Mandatory Palestine, to elect Hussein Bin Ali, the grandfather of Jordanian King Abdullah II, as custodian of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The guardianship became a Hashemite legacy administered by successive Jordanian monarchs.

In 1994, when Jordan signed a peace agreement with the Israeli occupation state, the treaty recognized Jordan’s role as custodian of Christian and Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. In 2013, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah II signed an agreement to “defend Jerusalem and its holy sites.” The agreement between Abbas and Abdullah confirmed the 1924 decision to choose the Hashemites as custodians of Jerusalem.

However, Israel has no respect for international laws and agreements. If the international community does nothing to contain the occupying state and the UN Security Council is unwilling to implement Chapter 7 of the UN Charter (“Action with Respect for Threats to the Peace…”), why does Doesn’t Jordan seriously take measures to protect the Al-Aqsa Mosque and its own custody in the holy city?

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Israel allows its far-right ministers and illegal settlers to invade Al-Aqsa Mosque with impunity, and now it has barred a Jordanian ambassador from entering the Noble Sanctuary. What else can we expect? Unfortunately, I see the total occupation of the holy city by Israel. It has already declared Jerusalem to be the “undivided” capital of the state, de facto annexation has already taken place. As the helpless UN watches on, Israel shows its contempt for Jordan, the Palestinians and international law, knowing that it too can act with impunity.

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“All decisions regarding the Temple Mount [Al Aqsa Mosque] and Jerusalem will be made by the Israeli government,” then-Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said last year. “It has sovereignty over the city, without any foreign considerations. We certainly reject any foreign interference in the decisions of the Israeli government. A united Jerusalem is the capital of only one state: the State of Israel.”

Jordan has done nothing to protect its historical custody of the Muslim and Christian holy sites in the city of Jerusalem, so is the Hashemite Kingdom really the custodian today? Perhaps in name only, but the reality on the ground tells a very different story.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect Middle East Monitor’s editorial policies.