King Abdullah II: The Other Elephant in the Room
The decades of failed Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations aren't due merely to the conflicts over borders, blockades, settlements, outposts, land resources or the construction in East Jerusalem. The failure can only be attributed to three widely-ignored "elephants in the room" that have prevented the Palestinian and Israeli leadership from signing any final peace treaty.
The first elephant is that the Palestinian leadership, as with most Arab leaders, does not want a Jewish state to even exist; the second is the 1so-called Right of Return clause that is the peaceful solution to eliminate the Jewish State; and the third is quietly hiding in the corner of the room pretending that he has no reason to be there...that elephant is King Abdullah II of Jordan.
With this in mind, President Obama's recent trip to Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman may be viewed as an effort to bring King Abdullah II into future negotiations with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas. Therefore, an agreement that was signed by Abbas and Abdullah shortly after Obama's visit may well be a symbol of a tacit alliance by which each boasts the other's status before going into any future peace talks.
It's also important to note that both these leaders have lost considerable political power with their respective peoples and the void is being filled by clan leadership.
Their agreement, signed on March 31, affirms King Abdullah II as the "Custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem" and that "he has the right to exert all legal efforts to preserve them, especially Al-Aqsa Mosque." It is obvious that this alliance coordinates their efforts to defend Jerusalem against the Judaization of the city.
Looking back in history, this agreement can be seen as the conclusion of a verbal agreement made in 1924 that had given the Hashemite Monarchy custodianship over Jerusalem's holy sites, but the signing was timed as a symbol right after President Obama's trip.
Oraib Rintawi, head of the Al-Quds Centre for Political Studies, said the deal also supports the 1994 Jordanian-Israeli treaty whereby Jordan became administrator of the Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem through its Ministry of Awaqf and Religious Affairs.
According to Rintawi:
"It completes articles related to the custodianship of holy sites. At the same time it clears any misunderstanding about custodianship matters and competition between Jordan and the Palestinians...It might be a sign for the start of efforts led by Obama to resume peace talks as it shows that the PA and Jordan have creative solutions for Jerusalem...It boosts Jordan's role in the Jerusalem question, giving legal and political means to tackle the issue internationally with the recognition of the Palestinians and Israel."
Statements from the Palace confirms that the agreement:
"reaffirms the historic principles upon which Jordan and Palestine are in agreement as regards Jerusalem and their common goal of defending Jerusalem together, especially at such critical time, when the city is facing dramatic challenges and daily illegal changes to its authenticity and original identity...Jerusalem is currently facing major challenges and attempts to change its Arab, Muslim and Christian identity."
And the Palestinian Ambassador to Jordan, Atallah Khairy points out:
"The Jordanian custodianship in Jerusalem is very essential because any legal vacuum in the Holy City will be exploited by Israel," he said, adding that "the king had been feeling that Israeli schemes in the city were growing."
But, one has to wonder if King Abdullah and President Abbas have a legal or political foundation for their agreement to even be valid?
This key question has been raised by Mudar Zahran, a controversial Jordanian-Palestinian writer educated in the U.S., whose professional credentials include: strategist at Amman's American Embassy and the American Embassy in Baghdad; economist/researcher at the Japanese and Australian Embassies in Amman; reporting to senior officials in U.S. Department of State, CIA, Department of Treasury and the DHS; and has covered some major political stories and writes for several Arab media outlets, but he has been banned from many. He is now a political refugee living in the UK.
"the Hashemite rule over Jordan came into existence based on the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement signed in 1919 between Chaim Weizmann and the Hashemite Prince Faisal. Article IV of the agreement states:"
All necessary measures shall be taken to encourage and stimulate immigration of Jews into Palestine on a large scale, and as quickly as possible to settle Jewish immigrants upon the land through closer settlement and intensive cultivation of the soil.
With this in mind, Zahran has become an outspoken advocate for the rights of Jews and Palestinians in the lands designated for them in the 'Mandate for Palestine.'
Zahran makes the following claim:
"Judaization" of the British Mandate for Palestine was the very thing the Hashemites were committed to support, in exchange for establishing an Arab state under Hashemite rule... Were it not for that agreement, Abdullah's grandfather would never have become King, nor would King Abdullah II. The terms of the agreement were clear: Jews were to settle in the British Mandate for Palestine with no exclusion of Jerusalem...The only entitlement involving Jerusalem that the agreement offered to the Hashemites was that Muslims were to oversee the Islamic holy sites of Jerusalem...Decades later, Jews are still honoring this commitment and allowing the Hashemites to oversee Islamic sites in Jerusalem. Nonetheless, the Hashemites have not honored their part of the deal, which is: recognizing the Jewish right to the land."
Given this reality, the 1994 peace treaty was a gift to the King from Israel that granted Jordan's custodianship over the Islamic sites in Jerusalem, including the Al-Aqsa mosque, also known as the 'Temple Mount,' the sacred Judaic site where King Herod's temple stood before it was destroyed by the Romans.
This pact declaring the King to be "The Custodian of the Al-Aqsa Mosque" is reminiscent of an old Hashemite title, "The Custodians of the Two Shrines." This new title evokes memories of the Monarchy's rule over the Islamic holy sites of Medina and Mecca before the King of Saudi Arabia claimed the title after expelling the Hashemites to TransJordan ...and it connects King Abdullah to the prestigious Al-Aqsa Mosque.
As for Abbas, he has no authority to make such a bequest. If you keep in mind the 1994 treaty, President Abbas who is well-past his legal stay in office, doesn't have the rights to Jerusalem's holy sites be able to turn power over to Jordan.
"The Jordanian King's current connection to Jerusalem comes from a privilege given to him by the Israelis to oversee the Islamic sites, and now King Abdullah wants to "preserve" Jerusalem from the very Jews who allowed him that privilege...While the Hashemites established their capital only 90 years ago in Jordan, Jews had Jerusalem as their capital 3,000 years ago."
It's obvious that the desire to hold on to power and all that comes with it has motivated this Abbas-Abdullah alliance with hopes it will fool enough people into believing their version of Middle East history on the eve of new talks.