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Knesset powerless to strip Jordan of Jerusalem custodianship — Judeh

By Khaled Neimat - Feb 18,2014 - Last updated at Feb 18,2014

AMMAN — The Israeli Knesset does not have the power to cancel Jordan’s role as custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem, Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh told deputies on Tuesday.

“Not one nor 1,000 Knesset members can cancel the Hashemite custodianship of Islamic and Christian holy shrines in Jerusalem,” Judeh said at a Lower House session.

Jordan’s role in these holy shrines is “historical” and the 1993 peace treaty with Israel recognises this fact, the minister noted, adding that all nations in the world and all religions recognise His Majesty King Abdullah as custodian of the holy shrines in Jerusalem.

He added that last year’s agreement between the King and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas came to reaffirm this.

The agreement, signed in late March 2013, helps Jordan and Palestine exert all efforts to protect Jerusalem and its holy sites from “Israeli escalatory Judaisation measures” and aims at protecting hundreds of waqf properties that are endowed to Al Aqsa Mosque.

Under the deal, King Abdullah enjoys the “full right to exert all legal efforts to safeguard and preserve [Jerusalem’s holy sites], especially Al Aqsa Mosque, defined as the entire Al Haram Al Sharif compound (or the noble sanctuary whose area is estimated at 144 dunums).

The agreement “also reaffirms the historic principles upon which Jordan and Palestine are in agreement as regards Jerusalem and their common goal of defending Jerusalem together”.

Judeh’s remarks on Tuesday came only one day after the Knesset decided to withdraw a proposal submitted by one of its members to discuss the Jordanian role in the holy shrine in Jerusalem, with a demand to end it.

On Sunday and during a Lower House session, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour declined to take such motion seriously, saying “no official decision is made yet”.

He addressed the MPs after they strongly expressed their anger toward such Israeli attempts, calling on the government to take a strong stand against Israel, and threatening that they will work to cancel the peace treaty with Israel, viewing the Knesset attempts as violations of the treaty.

Judeh noted that the Israeli Knesset decided to withdrew the motion after Jordan’s “strong and united position”.

The issue was raised by the Palestine Committee in the Lower House on Sunday, after it held a press conference prior to the House meeting and issued a statement calling for annuling the peace treaty with Israel.

The committee also called on the government to expel the Israeli ambassador in Amman and recall Jordan’s envoy in Tel Aviv as a response to the Knesset member’s attempts to deny Jordan’s custodianship over holy sites in East Jerusalem, as stipulated in Article 9 of the peace accord.

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