As Palestinians continue to denounce the Trump administration’s intention of recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, several Arab leaders have voiced their discontent with the move, which many fear will have dangerous consequences for the region as a whole.
In neighbouring Jordan, a major US ally in the Middle East, King Abdullah II told US President Donald Trump that recognising the holy city as Israel’s capital would inflame Muslim and Christian feelings.
The decision would have “dangerous repercussions on the stability and security of the region”, King Abdullah said, according to a statement released by the royal palace.
On the face of it, Trump’s move is deeply humiliating for Abdullah since it was his father, the late King Hussein, who lost Jerusalem to Israel in the 1967 war.
Abdullah is now a mere spectator as the US deals him and his family yet another blow.
Trump recognised Jerusalem as the Israeli capital on Wednesday, a move that has been condemned globally and threatens to ruin any chance of restarting long-stalled peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
The status of Jerusalem has historically been, and continues to be, a sensitive issue in the conflict, with Palestinians wanting East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and Israelis insisting that the city cannot be divided.
It is also an issue that has long-standing ties to Jordan and the country’s ruling Hashemite family.
Jerusalem, which is home to the third holiest site in Islam, al-Aqsa Mosque, became especially important for the Hashemites after they lost control over the holy sites of Mecca and Medina in modern-day Saudi Arabia.
The Hashemites, as the rulers of Hejaz from 1916, oversaw the holy sites until they were pushed out by the Saudis in 1925.
Abdullah’s great-great-grandfather, Sharif Hussein bin Ali, who was once the sharif of Mecca and also served as the former Hashemite king of Hejaz, was buried in the al-Aqsa Mosque courtyard in the 1930s.
Today, under a 2013 agreement signed between Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, Abdullah is the custodian of the Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.
The Royal Hashemite Court, which comprises the king and Jordanian political and judicial bodies, pays the salaries of workers at the Muslim holy places.
Abdul Ilah al-Khatib, a former foreign minister of Jordan, told Al Jazeera the issue of Jerusalem is not only a Jordanian issue but also “an Arab and Islamic one”.
“Trump’s decision is humiliating for Arabs and Muslims around the world,” Khatib said.
In 1947, the UN’s partition plan in Palestine envisioned dividing the territory into two separate Jewish and Arab states but would have left Jerusalem under an international administration.
Under Jordanian control
When Israel was officially created a year later, however, Israel took control of West Jerusalem and, in 1950, it declared the holy city its capital.
East Jerusalem was under Jordanian control before Israel occupied the city, along with the rest of the West Bank, after its military victory over the combined armies of Jordan, Egypt and Syria in 1967.
Finally, in 1980, Israel declared Jerusalem – both East and West – to be its “united” capital, a move that is illegal under international law.
Israel’s claim to the holy city has never been recognised by the international community, nor has its occupation and annexation of Jerusalem’s eastern half.
Adnan Abu Odeh, former chief of the Royal Hashemite Court, said Jerusalem is deeply embedded in the collective Muslim psyche and transcends Jordan.
“Jerusalem will continue to be the focal point [for] Arabs and Muslims in the region,” Abu Odeh said.
Abu Odeh acknowledged that several Arab states – namely, Egypt, Iraq and Syria – have their own internal conflicts and problems, and would probably not be able to apply necessary pressure on the US to convince it to reverse its decision.
The changing priorities of Saudi Arabia, which has aligned itself more closely with Israel in recent months in its effort to counter Iran, also means that Riyadh will not do much to counter the Trump administration’s decision, Abu Odeh said.
Still, he said, “Jerusalem will continue to be the Arabs and Muslims’ rallying point until it is liberated from the Israelis”.
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