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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Jordan and the Palestinian Authority Now at Odds over Jerusalem

Filed under: Jerusalem, Jordan, Palestinians

Jordan and the Palestinian Authority Now at Odds over Jerusalem

Reports on the upcoming publication of the Trump peace initiative have whipped Jordan into a frenzy. One of the issues troubling Jordan, in particular, is the change in its traditional status on the Temple Mount as Guardian of the Holy Sites sacred to Islam. Instead, there will be a general Arab-Islamic guardian, meaning that Saudi Arabia will replace Jordan as the true guardian of the sites holy to Islam. From the historical point of view, after the Hashemites were pushed out as the guardians of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, they will now have to come to terms with losing their responsibility for the Al-Aqsa mosque.

Jordanian spokesmen have expressed themselves harshly on this issue, saying that this is a red line and Jordan will reconsider all of its regional alliances as a result.

Though they have not given any details, developments behind the scene with regard to the management of the Waqf should be noted. At first, Jordan came to an agreement with Mahmoud Abbas about a change in the administration of the Waqf and the inclusion of Fatah personnel to it. This was a signal to Saudi Arabia that Jordan and Mahmoud Abbas are the landlords of the mosques, and they will not allow themselves to be pushed out.

However, when it seemed that Jordan and the PLO had created a united front against Saudi Arabia, both fresh partners began to clash over who would actually lead the new Waqf administration.

Jordan saw to it that the addition of senior Fatah officials would not violate Jordan’s practical control of the council, but the PLO in Ramallah thought differently. Sources in east Jerusalem report an all-out war is under way over the leadership of the new council. Ramallah wants to appoint Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, an Abbas loyalist, to lead the council. Jordan is completely opposed, and the first expression of a change of partnership was its offer to a former foe, Sheikh Ekrima Sa’id Sabri, to lead the council. Sheikh Ekrima was persona non grata in Jordan, but, for the first time in years, he was invited to talks there and was offered the job.

Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein
Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, Abbas’ favorite (Arab press)

Sheikh Ekrima Sabri
Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, Jordan’s favorite. (ABNA)

Sources revealed that when Ramallah found out, Tanzim-Fatah forces threatened Sheikh Ekrima. He informed the Jordanians that he had been threatened, preventing him from taking up their offer. After a brief honeymoon, Jordan and Ramallah are again divided over Jerusalem.

Before the recent summit in Tunis, King Abdullah took an interesting step. He met with King Hassan II of Morocco, who is also from the Hashemite dynasty, in other words from the family of Sharifs [Guardians] that claim descent from the prophet Mohammed.

Morocco is also currently fighting Wahhabist elements who reject Islamic religious rites at holy sites followed locally in the country. It attributes this pressure to Saudi Arabia, and relations between Morocco and the Saudis have chilled a great deal. From this, the two Hashemite kings have identified a joint interest and are uniting against what they attribute to the Trump’s plan and Saudi Arabia’s strong influence over the design of the U.S. plan.