Jordan and PLO in tussle over Jerusalem: Rabin hails accord as 'closest thing to peace treaty' - Palestinians see agreement as threat to claim on capital

KING Hussein of Jordan and Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, are locked in a struggle for power over the issue of Jerusalem, following Israel's decision to boost Jordan's role in future negotiations on the city's status.

The Jerusalem clauses in the Israeli-Jordanian declaration, signed in Washington on Monday, have caused dismay among many Palestinians who believe that the deal is a Jordanian-Israeli conspiracy, designed to undermine the PLO's chances of winning East Jerusalem as its capital, and, thereby, also undermining the PLO's chances of creating a Palestinian state.

The clauses have caused concern among some Israeli strategists, who fear that the Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, may have underestimated the level of bitterness between Mr Arafat and King Hussein, which could erupt, causing untold damage to the delicate peace process.

In recent months eyes have focused on the minutiae of the Gaza-Jericho plan. But the Jerusalem question has all the time been looming like an increasingly dark cloud over the future of the peace process. Israel claims all Jerusalem is its sovereign land, while the Palestinians claim the Arab east side as their capital.

In theory Jerusalem should not be discussed until talks on the final status of the occupied territories begin in two years' time. In fact, political power-play over control of the city began long ago. Israel is well ahead in the game, after speeding up Jewish settlement on Arab lands and strangling Palestinian institutions on the Arab east side.

In the new Israeli-Jordanian declaration, Israel hopes to have played another ace by formally recognising Jordan's guardianship of Jerusalem's Muslim sites for the first time. Until now, Jordan's custodian role, since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war when Israel seized the east side of the city from King Hussein's Arab Legion, has only been recognised by Israel de facto. Furthermore, Israel has promised that Jordan will be given 'high priority' when talks on the final status of the city begin.

For Israel, King Hussein is an infinitely preferable negotiating partner on the issue of Jerusalem than Mr Arafat, because the King's only stated concern is with preserving East Jerusalem as a Muslim religious capital. Yesterday in Washington he tried to defuse the row by stating: 'My religious faith demands that sovereignty over the holy places in Jerusalem reside with God and God alone.'

King Hussein has no wish to get involved in the far more painful debate over political status. It was no coincidence that Israeli hardliners such as Ehud Olmert, mayor of Jerusalem, welcomed the Israeli deal with Jordan, in the hope that the PLO's political claim will now be sidelined.

For King Hussein the declaration also serves a vital purpose. It enhances the Hashemite claim as supreme saviour of Islam's third holiest site - the Haram al-Sharif - thereby boosting his standing in the Arab world, and scoring points over Saudi Arabia's King Fahd.

'Arafat represents the sovereign claim to Jerusalem. The King represents the religious claim,' said Dori Gold, a leading Israeli analyst at the Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies. 'The struggle between the PLO and Jordan will be the main drama of forthcoming months. Book your seat now.'

The row which has now broken out in public over the control of the Muslim holy sites has been simmering ever since the signing of the Oslo peace accords. Mr Arafat signalled last October that he intended to press for the return to Jerusalem of the Awqaf, the Muslim sites administration based in Amman. It was also reported last autumn that Hassan Thaboub, chairman of the West Bank Islamic Council, favoured bringing the holy sites under PLO control, which angered Amman.

At the same time the King made a series of loaded speeches proclaiming that sovereignty of the holy sites belonged only to God. He also speeded restoration of Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock, which he paid for out of his own pocket, and which now dominates the Jerusalem skyline as a golden symbol of Hashemite control.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
tech
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas