Jordan will not permit any threat to the Arab character of Jerusalem, King Abdullah told the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, hours after Israeli security forces clashed again with Muslim rioters at the city’s Temple Mount site.
“The Hashemite custodianship is a sacred duty,” Abdullah said. “We reject threats to the holy places and the Arab character of this holy city.”
The king was referring to a 2013 agreement with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that entrusts the king with the defense of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. The deal confirmed a verbal agreement dating back to 1924 that gave the kingdom’s Hashemite leaders custodial rights over the Muslim holy sites. When Israel captured the Old City in 1967 it agreed that the Muslim Waqf would continue to administer the site’s Muslim holy sites.
Renewed violence at the Temple Mount broke out Monday morning with Palestinian protesters hurling rocks, firebombs and firecrackers at Israeli police forces. The rioters had barricaded themselves inside the al-Aqsa Mosque, which sits atop the Mount.
The site, holy to both Muslims and Jews, is one of the most sensitive spots in the Middle East. The ongoing violence there has been a source of friction between Israel and Jordan, who signed a peace treaty in 1994.
Abdullah noted that he has called the rise of extremist groups like the Islamic State in his region, and the crisis they have caused, “a third world war, and I believe we must respond with equal intensity.”
“Syrian refugees alone constitute 20 percent of my country’s population,” Abdullah said, adding that Jordan and Lebanon have for the past four years been “bearing the brunt” of the fallout from the Syrian civil war, which has displaced millions fleeing the brutal violence there. He called for greater assistance from the international community, saying it was “high time” that the world did more to help.
The king also made a heartfelt defense of the kinder side of Islam, in the face of “the outlaws of Islam that operate globally today.”
In his address, he asked world leaders, “When and how did fear and intimidation creep so insidiously into our conversation when there is so much more to be said about the love of God?”