Peace deal heralds battle for holy city

The treaty to be signed this week between Jordan and Israel may herald reconciliation between the two neighbours, but could also lead to a war over the future of Jerusalem.

Under the agreement, Israel recognises Jordan's claim to be custodian over Jerusalem's Islamic holy sites, underpinning the Hashemites' right to a special role in deciding the city's future status. The move, say Palestinians, is a deliberate ploy by Israel and Jordan to divide and rule Jerusalem, as they have a mutual interest in blocking Palestinian hopes of winning Arab east Jerusalem as a future capital.

These fears are causing growing anger and depair among Palestinians throughout Jerusalem and the West Bank and look certain to spur militancy.

Islamic militants of Hamas have often warned that their fiercest war will be waged over Jerusalem. Israeli security forces last night said they had rounded up dozens of Hamas activists in the West Bank following Wednesday's attack on a bus in Tel Aviv.

Although Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, appears outflanked by the Israeli-Jordanian move, he has some powerful political weapons with which to shore up his Jerusalem claims, and he has recently started to use them. As a result Mr Arafat and King Hussein have already become locked in a battle of wills.

Mr Arafat has forged ahead with his claim to take over the running of Jerusalem's holy sites by setting up a religious ministry. He is also appealing to Palestinians responsible for running holy sites in Jerusalem and the West Bank to give up their ties with Amman and show their loyalty to the PLO.

Jerusalem's religious leaders are angry that King Hussein appears to be dividing the Palestinian camp and thereby playing into the hands of the Israelis. Israel claims Jerusalem must remain united for ever under Israeli sovereignty, while the Palestinians demand east Jerusalem as their capital.

King Hussein has played down Arab political claims in the city in order to shore up his religious role, accepting only limited quasi-sovereignty over the holy sites. For Israel, therefore, King Hussein makes a far preferable partner in the Jerusalem negotiations.

On historic, religious and personal grounds, the Hashemites have for decades claimed an administrative and spiritual authority over the Jerusalem holy sites, namely al- Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock on the Haram al- Sharif - or the Holy Sanctuary - which sits above the Jewish Temple Mount.

Jordan has also maintained an authority over the other Islamic sites in the West Bank.

King Hussein believes deeply that this role is rightfully his, as a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. The king also knows that without his role in Jerusalem, his position in the Arab world would be severely diminished.

The Islamic waqf, or ministry of religious endowments, was based in Amman during the years of Jordanian rule in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and has remained there since the 1967 Israeli occupation. A month ago Mr Arafat threw down the gauntlet to King Hussein by appointing his own religious minister, Hassan Tahboub, and setting up a Palestinian waqf. Two weeks ago he went further by appointing his own grand mufti for the West Bank and Jerusalem.

In an apparant compromise, King Hussein announced that he would relinquish his right to control the sites in the West Bank and stopped paying the salaries of the 1,230 Muslim staff at the West Bank sites and religious courts. However, the king insisted he would maintain his custodial role in Jerusalem, and pay the salaries of the 540 waqf employees.

Next month Mr Arafat intends to start paying the salaries of the Jerusalem employees and the bills for every Islamic institution, thereby co- opting Jordan's administrative apparatus in the city. Palestinian sources say King Fahd of Saudi Arabia has promised to foot the dollars 12m ( pounds 7.5m) bill.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?