Al-Aqsa needs a new status quo

Judaism’s holiest and Islam’s third holiest site has been neglected by its Jordanian custodians. It’s time for a arrangement that honors freedom of worship, opening a new chapter of peace between our peoples.

by  Mudar Zahran, ISRAEL HAYOM

It is no longer a secret that King Abdullah of Jordan is using Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Temple Mount as both a diversion to the thousands of Jordanians protesting against him in the streets of Amman and as political leverage to his dimension importance in the region. To the Muslims, he’s claiming to be Al-Aqsa’s savior. To the West, he’s bluntly saying he could cause trouble for Israel.

In an article I recently penned for Israel Hayom, I quoted a Jerusalemite Arab intellectual as saying: “Jordan’s king is in trouble and about to lose his throne, and he knows it. He is looking for something very touchy and has settled on using Jerusalem as a focal point. The card he will play is Al-Aqsa Mosque.” He added: “The only thing that could trigger the people against Israel is Al-Aqsa.”

Two days after my article was published, unrest broke out on the grounds of Al-Aqsa. Violence, confrontations with the guards and total chaos. Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi saved no time to condemn Israel in social media, tweeting: “We condemn Israel’s violations of sanctity of Al-Aqsa, especially on this holy day. Its attempts to change the status quo in occupied #Jerusalem & its holy sites will only lead to more violence, threatening security of all. Int’l community cannot remain silent on these violations.

This déjà vu has become the norm. Jordan’s king has turned Judaism’s holiest site and Islam’s third holiest mosque into a card game. He gambles with the lives and futures of Jewish and Arab Jerusalemites for political gain. And he will not stop. Abdullah will keep dealing cards until he gets a winning hand, and then will go all in.

As a Muslim, I am insulted that a place very dear to me is being used by a heatless dictator. As a human, I am offended that a place that should unite us in love for it is being used by an illegitimate ruler to divide Muslims and Jews even further.

One thing remains: Abdullah won’t stop playing the Al-Aqsa card unless he is either stopped or removed from power by the Jordanian people.

The king of Jordan has no religious, legal or political merit that entitles him to be the custodian of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The king’s few remaining cheerleaders may argue that the peace agreement between Jordan and Israel dictates that he is the caretaker of Al-Aqsa. This is true, but agreements could always be amended, revised, or even revoked. The king himself revoked certain parts of the agreement last year and demanded that Israel return two areas it was leasing from Jordan.

Further, Jordan’s regime is abusing the holy shrine and not serving it. The king has been a destructive force for Al-Aqsa itself. I recently visited the mosque and the Western Wall. I interviewed several Arab workers and guards inside Al-Aqsa itself, then posted videos of the interviews on social media. All the worshippers, guards and staff members agreed on record that Al-Aqsa was being neglected and badly managed by the Jordanian government. One even accused the government of stealing funds in the hundreds of millions donated by Arab and Muslim countries.

Whether you are a Muslim or a Jew, if you visit Al-Aqsa today you will come out distressed that the holy site has been so neglected. Al-Aqsa is more poorly maintained than any other mosque I have ever prayed in, including the mosque I prayed in while visiting Tel Aviv.

The current status quo cannot be sustained. It’s explosively dangerous and has made both sides vulnerable to foreign interference and blackmail.

The holy shrine needs a new arrangement that is fair for both Muslims and Jews.

It is time for a new status quo for Al-Aqsa and the Temple Mount in general. I suggest that trusted local Muslims and Jews form a joint council to administer the holy site. The new arrangement must honor freedom of worship, opening a new chapter of peace between our peoples.

My sources in Saudi Arabia also confirm to me that the Saudi kingdom “wants to see peace in Al-Aqsa, it has no intentions to take over the place nor is it seeking any political gain, but is still willing to finance and support any future arrangements that could bring a lasting peace to the holy shrine, even if it means covering the entire budget of maintaining and sustaining the Islamic quarter of the holy shrine.”

This could only become possible if the custodianship of Jordan’s king ends.

In a post-monarchy Jordan, ruled by a secular regime, this could be arranged easily with help from peace-seeking Arab states in the Gulf and elsewhere.

Miss Universe Philippines, Gazini Ganados Ewamer, who is half-Palestinian, said these words of wisdom in a recent interview with Israeli media: “Let the love of God unite us, and not set us apart. Let the love of Jerusalem unite us all. Yes, I would happily visit the Kotel [Western Wall]. It is already on my list.”

Yes, let the love for Jerusalem unite us. Let’s make a new arrangement on the Temple Mount that is good and fair to all.

August 26, 2019 | 1 Comment »

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