Jordan said to warn incoming government against touching Temple Mount status quo

Jordanian officials have reportedly warned that bilateral ties with Israel will suffer if Jerusalem’s recent government tries to alter the established order arrangement on the flashpoint Temple Mount.

The warning from Amman, reported on by the Kan public broadcaster Sunday, underscored the potential diplomatic pitfalls awaiting Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu should he take power backed by far-right hardliners, as expected.

There’s particular sensitivity around Israel’s ties with neighbor Jordan, which is custodian of the Temple Mount, establishing a possible clash with lawmakers from Netanyahu’s presumptive coalition who’ve pushed for Israel to say its sovereignty over the Jerusalem holy site and permit greater Jewish freedom of faith.

“Any try to change the established order on the Temple Mount will certainly harm ties between Jordan and Israel,” Kan quoted a Jordanian source saying.

The source took specific aim at Itamar Ben Gvir, the pinnacle of the extremist Otzma Yehudit party set to turn into a part of the ruling coalition, who has made a degree of touring the location during times of increased tensions.

Ben Gvir visiting the location and “making provocations” could be a complete different story if he does in order a government minister, the channel reported the Jordanian source as saying.

Far-right MK Itamar Ben Gvir arrives to go to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City on August 7, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Ben Gvir and others within the Religious Zionism-Otzma Yehudit alliance have long pushed for changes to the established order, under which only Muslims are allowed to worship inside the compound while Jews may visit the Judaism’s holiest site, but not pray there.

Netanyahu has indicated he’s open to giving Ben Gvir a cupboard post. Among the many positions he has aimed for is Public Security Minister, which might give him control of the police, the body that enforces the ban on Jewish prayer.

Under their 1994 peace treaty, Israel recognizes Jordan because the custodian of the Temple Mount, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Temple Mount is the holiest place in Judaism and the location of the third holiest shrine in Islam.

Israel captured the Temple Mount and Jerusalem’s Old City from Jordan within the 1967 Six Day War. Nonetheless, it allowed the Jordanian Waqf to proceed to keep up religious authority atop the mount.

Small changes at the location or to that arrangement are liable to spark protests which could snowball beyond Jordan or the Palestinians to the broader Muslim world. In 2017, Israel’s decision to position metal detectors at entrances to the location following a terror attack there led to days of riots, Jordanian threats and a Palestinian boycott.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II attends the Jeddah Security and Development Summit (GCC+3) at a hotel in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah on July 16, 2022. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)

Ties with Amman hit a low point while Netanyahu was prime minister, and spats have taken on personal dimensions: Last yr, Jordan refused to present Netanyahu permission to overfly the country for a diplomatic visit in retaliation after Jordan’s crown prince was unable to the visit the al-Aqsa Mosque. Israel said on the time that the prince had brought along a bigger security detail than planned for.

Ties improved while Netanyahu was within the opposition during the last 18 months, but analysts fear the connection with Amman could get chilly again once Netanyahu tis confirmed as prime minister.

Netanyahu and his political allies won a 64-seat majority in last week’s election, paving the best way for him to return to the premiership together with a government made up of Religious Zionism and the ultra-Orthodox Shas and UTJ parties.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot visit construction work on the fence between Israel and Jordan. February 9, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Kan reported that the Jordanian source noted Netanyahu’s familiarity with the ramifications of ties becoming frayed again and the strategic importance of Israeli-Palestinian peace.

On Saturday, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi brought up “provocations and violations” against Al-Aqsa and other Jerusalem holy sites in a Saturday meeting with UN Middle East peace envoy Tor Wennesland, Jordan’s state-run Petra News reported.

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