In his speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, King Abdullah II of Jordan warned Israel about its “religious transgressions” against Al-Aqsa Mosque. He stressed that attempts to erase the Arab, Muslim or Christian identity of Jerusalem “will not be tolerated”.
The King reminded the General Assembly that Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Noble sanctuary – Al-Haram Al-Sharif – in East Jerusalem is under his kingdom’s custodianship and is protected by international law as occupied territory. Al-Aqsa is Islam’s third holiest site and it is important to 1.7 billion Muslims, one quarter of the world’s population. It is similar in importance to the Ka’aba in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.
“Let me be absolutely clear, any invasion or division of the site of Al-Aqsa Mosque would be viewed not only as a breach of Israel’s obligations [as the occupying power], but also as profound religious transgression,” said King Abdullah. “The international community must send a clear message that such transgressions, or any attempt to erase the Arab, Muslim or Christian identity of Jerusalem, will not be tolerated.”
Referring to the ongoing changes in the Arab world, the King pointed out that while we deal with these challenges, we must never lose focus on the crisis at the heart of the region. “For almost sixty-five years, the Palestinian people have been the exception to the UN promise of shelter under international law and human rights – not yet; all nations had the dignity of living in freedom and security except the Palestinians not yet; all nations had the right to self-determination except the Palestinians not yet; now is the time to say, ‘Enough!'”
The King was emboldened when he connected the Arab Spring to the Palestine-Israel issue. “As the Arab Spring demanded dignity for all, so it demanded the end of exceptionalism,” he told the General Assembly. “No single issue causes greater anger than to tell an entire people that when it comes to global justice, they don’t count.”
There must be a just peace, he continued, before the “Arab Summer” can bear its full fruit: “A just peace with a Palestinian state living side by side with a secure Israel at peace with the entire region.”
King Abdullah clearly blamed the Israelis for spoiling the chance of a resumption of negotiations. “Earlier this year, in Amman, we succeeded in getting both sides back to the table for exploratory talks,” he explained. “Then positive traction stopped again. Illegal settlement-building and unilateral actions continue, constituting direct threats to a negotiated peace.”
A rare opportunity for resolving the conflict, the King believes, will present itself after the US presidential election. “There may be a rare window of opportunity, later this year, to achieve what both sides so urgently need: two states, at peace, Palestine and Israel – both secure, both free to look forward – on the basis of a just, comprehensive, and final settlement. This has always been and will remain a foremost priority for Jordan.”
Before he finished his speech, the King reiterated that the Arab world is seeking peace on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative announced in 2002 and adopted by 57 Arab and Muslim countries. He also called for Israeli to save time and stick to peace. “It is time for Israel to turn around, look to the future we share, and make a just and lasting peace with the Palestinians.”