Jordanian King Abdullah’s role in Jerusalem: Mediator or menace? – analysis

By uncritically depicting Jordan’s King Abdullah II as a moderating force, news organizations are denying their vast audiences the critical context and background information needed to form their own opinions.

By Gidon Ben-Zvi, HonestReporting

News outlets in recent days have described Jordan’s King Abdullah II as a moderating force, someone who can help maintain calm in Jerusalem ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. But what has gone virtually unreported is that Amman has a history of fomenting violence in Israel’s capital city.

Meanwhile, some of the world’s most influential news publications continue to incorrectly suggest that Israel is somehow attempting to change the “status quo” in Jerusalem and thus causing “heightened tensions” — which, in reality, suggests an excuse for Palestinian and Islamic terrorism.

Negev Summit Snub

Israel this week hosted the ‘Negev Summit’ which included the participation of diplomats from four Arab countries and the United States. It constituted what was described as a “major realignment of Middle Eastern powers” with a primary focus on preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

But while efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian dialogue were also on the agenda, the Palestinian Authority nevertheless warned the leaders of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt and Morocco that Jerusalem was using the confab as a way to avoid dealing with the Palestinian issue.

Notably, as foreign ministers from across the Middle East convened in Israel’s southern desert, Jordan’s King Abdullah II was instead meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

Amman did not even bother sending a representative to the event.

“Welcome to your country. We [Palestinians] and you [Jordanians] are the same,” Abbas told Abdullah, who had last visited the PA’s administrative capital in 2017.

Abbas added: “This is not an overstatement, we and Jordan are one.”

Seemingly, the PA’s condemnation of a conference aimed at promoting regional stability and furthering the cause of peace is in alignment with Jordanian policy.

Jordan’s Meddling in Jerusalem

In November, Israeli media reported that a campaign in Jordan had raised several million shekels ostensibly in order to renovate homes of Palestinian residents in Jerusalem’s Old City, specifically those living near the Temple Mount.

But here is how Majed Al Tabbaa, President of the Jordanian Engineers Association that is leading the initiative, explained its purpose:

“‘The campaign is Jordan’s answer to the Balfour Declaration that allowed the Israeli occupation authorities to establish a national home on Palestinian land.’ He [Al Tabbaa] said the project did not only reflect the Engineers Association’s stance, but that of the ‘entire Jordanian people,’ and represented the ‘residents’ feelings towards the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

The existing system governing affairs at the Temple Mount dates back to 1967 when Israel in a defensive war captured the eastern part of Jerusalem from Jordan, which had illegally occupied the area since 1948.

Then-Israeli defense minister Moshe Dayan soon thereafter met with Jerusalem’s Muslim leaders and, despite having just been attacked by Jordan, agreed to let the Amman-associated Islamic Waqf continue administering holy sites atop the Temple Mount.

Since then, Jordan has allowed the Palestinian Authority to choose the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the leading Muslim religious figure in the city. The current Grand Mufti, appointed by Mahmoud Abbas and who receives a salary from the PA, is Mohammed Hussein.

He rejects all Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and has denied that the biblical temples ever existed.

And it is the Waqf that has allowed Palestinians to store weapons inside the Al Aqsa Mosque, including in the days leading up to the Hamas-initiated conflict with Israel in May 2021. Since the Waqf can’t or won’t maintain order on the Temple Mount, Israeli security forces must at times intervene to restore calm and civility.

Jordan and Hamas

While Hamas and other Gaza Strip-based terrorists were last May indiscriminately launching more than 4,000 rockets at Israeli population centers, Jordan’s apparent position was to side with U.S.-designated Palestinian terrorist organizations.

Jordanian government spokesman Sakhr Dudin during the conflict made clear that rallies taking place in support of Hamas express Jordanians’ “consistent and historical position in support of the Palestinian brothers and support for the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Dudin added that Jordanians are united in their support for “Palestine” and stressed that the people and the state’s stance are “identical.”

Indeed, Jordanian lawmakers in November denounced a British decision to designate Hamas as a terrorist organization. In a statement, 75 members of the 130-seat House of Representatives described London’s move as “an aggression on the Palestinian people and the Arab nation.”

Jordan-Iran Alliance?

Supporting Hamas dovetails with Amman’s growing ties to Iran, with Jordan in recent months attempting to strengthen its relationship with the Islamic Republic. Jordan did not partake in the Negev Summit partially because it was convened with a view to curbing Tehran’s nefarious activities that aim to destabilize the region.

Since June of last year, Jordanian state media have been promoting full financial cooperation with Iran, a country committed to Israel’s destruction. King Abdullah seems to believe that opening the door to Tehran will rescue his country from a myriad of crises.

Middle Eastern politics is complicated, nuanced and ever-shifting.

By uncritically depicting Jordan’s King Abdullah II as a moderating force, news organizations are denying their vast audiences the critical context and background information needed to form their own opinions.

This is especially true as terrorism is once again rocking Israel and amid concerns that Jerusalem has again become a powder keg ahead of Ramadan.