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Op-Ed: The Temple Mount and the Peace Treaty

You might want to remember Israel's 1994 Treaty of Peace with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. It tells us something about today’s headlines.
Published: Sunday, September 29, 2013 11:02 PM


On October 26, 1994, Israel and Jordan signed a “Treaty of Peace between the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan”. Like most peace treaties, it was designed to normalize relations between former enemies. The Treaty contains a Preamble, 30 Articles, four Annexes and ‘Agreed Minutes.’  The Treaty is still in place.

You might want to remember this Treaty. It tells us something about today’s headlines.

Today’s headlines are filled with Arab rage and Jewish reaction. Arabs riot when Jews ascend to the Temple Mount.  When Jews want freedom to go to the Temple Mount, Arabs call for a Third Intifada. Reacting to Arab rage, Israel Police restrict Jews from the Mount. Then MK Moshe Feiglin files a complaint about discrimination against Jews on the Mount.  

Arabs respond with more rage—and rocks. They want Jews banned forever from the Temple Mount.

But the 1994 Israel-Jordan Treaty tells a different story. The Treaty suggests that Arab rage and Israel Police restrictions are contrary to the spirit—if not the exact language—of an International Peace Agreement.

MK Feiglin, the Temple Mount, Arab rage and this Peace Treaty converge through a story said to come from the Jordan Times (see elder of Zyion blog, “Now the Jews are ‘tampering with roofs’”, September 18, 2013). According to this story, the Jordanian government has complained that an entity they call the ‘Jerusalem Development Company’ has been requiring Jerusalem shop-keepers to renovate their roofs. This ‘Company’, according to the complaint, requires these renovations because it wants to build ‘a huge project’ upon those roofs. Jordan complain that this project—and the roof renovations—violate the 1994 Treaty.

Jordan demands the Treaty be enforced. It demands that the Israeli government prevent all entities, including the ‘Israeli Municipality’ [sic], from making any changes to Jerusalem’s Old City that would alter its Arabic and Islamic identity.

This protest (reportedly delivered in Amman to the Israel Ambassador to Jordan) is important to MK Feiglin’s own protest because it raises the stakes for the Israel Police and the Waqf (the Muslim Administrator of the Temple Mount).  The Jordanian protest, you will see, indirectly validates Feiglin’s complaint—and undermines the legitimacy of Temple-inspired Arab rage.

The stakes go up because Jordan argues that those roof renovations are “an infringement against [sic] Article 9 of the 1994 Jordanian-Israel Treaty”.  Article 9 is real. The Treaty is real. But Article 9 of that Treaty does not discuss shop-owner roofs or shop-owner property. It does not discuss commercial or residential construction. It discusses Holy—and historically significant-- Places.


Discrimination of Jews at Jerusalem Holy Sites is a Treaty violation.
Specifically, Article 9 guarantees free access to historically significant places in Jerusalem. Israel agrees to respect Jordan's special role in protecting Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem. Israel agrees to give high priority to Jordan's historic role in these shrines during permanent status negotiations.  The states also pledge to promote interfaith relations among Judaism, Islam and Christianity, with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, freedom of religious worship, tolerance and peace [emphasis mine].

That’s it. That’s the complete Article 9. It suggests that the Jordanian complaint might be without merit because that complaint does not identify the holiness or historical significance of shop-owners’ roofs (national identity and historical significance are not the same thing).

But Article 9 does clarify that Jordan and Israel have agreed to guarantee freedom of religious worship at Jerusalem Holy Sites. That suggests that MK Feiglin is correct. All restrictions against Jews on the Temple Mount are contrary to the terms of a signed Peace Agreement. Discrimination of Jews at Jerusalem Holy Sites is a Treaty violation.

Article 9 also suggests that Arab riots over the Temple Mount could be illegal. Certainly, lawyers will have to decide if a signed international Treaty establishes enforceable law. They will have to determine if a violation of the terms of such an Agreement should be called ‘illegal.’

But until then, Arab rage should be condemned by all. MK Feiglin’s allegations should be acted upon immediately because any Arab violation of an existing Peace Agreement puts today’s peace negotiations at risk; for if Arabs so obviously violate this existing Agreement, no Israeli leader can trust them to observe the next Agreement.

If the world wants Peace in the Middle East, it should act now. It should demand that the Arab uphold the terms of the 1994 Agreement before moving forward with any new Agreement. At the very least, this should be Israel’s position.

The ‘roof renovation’ story may not be real. It may be a satire of a Jewish custom—erecting  “roof-altering” temporary booths called ‘sukkahs’ for the just-ended Jewish holiday of Succot. But the story’s reference to the real Article 9 of a very real Peace Treaty reminds us that free access to the Temple Mount is no laughing matter.

It’s a guarantee.