Jordan PM puts kibosh on canceling peace treaty with Israel

Abdullah Ensour warns tensions over Temple Mount inflicting ‘stab wound’ on 20-year pact, but says both sides committed to peace

Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour speaks during a press conference in the capital, Amman, on November 9, 2014, after the government's decision to recall its ambassador to Israel. (photo credit: AFP/Khalil Mazraawi)
Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour speaks during a press conference in the capital, Amman, on November 9, 2014, after the government's decision to recall its ambassador to Israel. (photo credit: AFP/Khalil Mazraawi)

AMMAN, Jordan — The ongoing tension over Jerusalem’s flashpoint al-Aqsa Mosque compound is inflicting a “stab wound” on the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said on Sunday, though he said Amman would not cancel the 20-year agreement.

“Israel and Jordan are committed to peace and to respect the peace treaty, but this commitment is not just applicable to one side, it is a commitment by both,” Ensour told reporters in Amman.

He added that backing out of the peace treaty with Israel was not on the table for now, the state-run Petra News Agency reported.

Last week, heavy clashes raged at the mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City as Israeli police faced off with Palestinian stone-throwers, prompting Jordan to recall its ambassador in protest.

Jordanian officials had warned the kingdom may reassess the peace treaty in the wake of what they called “unilateral Israeli violations.”

“What is happening is a stab wound to the idea of peace,” Ensour said Sunday in remarks just two weeks after the 20th anniversary of the peace treaty.

Ensour said Israel’s actions at the site were the result of a “clear” policy aimed at changing the decades-long status quo at the site, which is holy to both Muslims and Jews.

“The Jordanian government condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the events of recent weeks in Jerusalem, which are not the result of administrative errors or acts by a few extremists but rather a clear government plan to change the realities at the holy places,” he continued.

Months of unrest in and around the plaza have been triggered by Palestinian fears that Israel was preparing to change the status quo to allow Jews to pray there — a suggestion that has been repeatedly rejected by Israel.

Although Jews are allowed to visit the compound, they are not permitted to pray there for fear it could shatter the fragile status quo at the site, one of the most sensitive places in the Middle East.

During talks with the European Union’s new foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini earlier on Sunday, Jordan’s King Abdullah II reiterated his opposition to Israeli “attacks” on Jerusalem’s holy places.

He also called for a resumption of international efforts to revive the collapsed peace talks, a palace statement said.

Under terms of the 1994 peace treaty, Jordan is recognized as custodian of the Muslim holy sites in East Jerusalem, which was captured by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed in a move never recognized by the international community.

Abdullah reportedly canceled Jordanian participation in a ceremony that had been scheduled for this week to mark 20 years of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abdullah spoke by telephone last week, and agreed on the imperative to calm tensions. Netanyahu also assured the king of Jordan, who is responsible for the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf trust that administers the site, that he has no intention of changing the status quo there to allow Jewish prayer, as some right-wing Jewish extremists are demanding.

Nonetheless, in a further sign of Jordanian displeasure, Abdullah ordered two of his ministers and some 40 other Jordanian officials not to attend the 20th-anniversary ceremony scheduled to be held in the Jordan Valley area between the two countries, Israel’s Channel 10 news reported Friday night. This move forced the official postponement of the ceremony, which may well be cancelled altogether, the TV report said.

The “modest” ceremony was also to have been attended by Israel’s Minister for Regional Development, Silvan Shalom.

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