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
Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
O'Toole as Cornelius Gallus in ‘Katherine of Alexandria’
filmSadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Life and Style
fashion
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Junior DBA (SQL Server, T-SQL, SSIS, SSAS) London - Finance

£30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior DBA (SQ...

Business Anaylst

£60000 - £75000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Business Anal...

Senior Project Manager

£60000 - £90000 per annum + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Global leading Energy Tra...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment