Jordan parliament vote to expel Israeli ambassador

By Jamal Halaby

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 26 2014 12:44 p.m. MST

Protesters affiliated with Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood against U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's peace talks burn a representation of the Israeli flag during a demonstration in downtown Amman, Jordan, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014.

Mohammad Hannon, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan's parliament voted unanimously to expel the Israeli ambassador and recall its own envoy on Wednesday, a day after Israeli lawmakers debated a proposal to take over a Jerusalem holy site administered by Jordanians.

The vote by acclamation in Jordan's 150-seat parliament is not binding to the Cabinet, which is keen to maintain diplomatic ties with Israel and, according to an official who spoke anonymously because of the issue's sensitivity, plans no action before the Knesset debate concludes. Israeli lawmakers have not voted on the issue and it is unlikely to pass as the majority does not want to antagonize Muslims.

The discussion was initiated by the Likud Party's Moshe Feiglin, who proposed the Jewish state wrest control from Jordan the al-Aqsa compound housing shrines revered by Muslims. Jordan was given a "special" role over the area in a 1994 peace treaty with Israel.

The compound, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary, is Islam's third holiest site after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. It contains the Dome of the Rock, which enshrines the rock where Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.

 But it is also Judaism's most sacred place of worship, venerated by Jews as the Temple Mount. Jews believe the rock may be where the holiest part of the two ancient temples stood about 2,000 years ago — and where religious Jews pray a third temple will one day be built.

The site is so holy that Jews have traditionally refrained from praying on the hilltop, but attitudes among some Orthodox have been changing and there has been growing demand to allow Jews to pray there freely as well.

To emphasize Muslim claims and custody of the compound, Jordan's King Abdullah II and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas signed an agreement last April confirming their "common goal to defending" Jerusalem and its sacred Muslim sites "against attempts to Judaize the Holy City."

At the time, a joint statement said the deal confirmed Jordan's historic role as custodian of Jerusalem's Muslim sites, particularly the flashpoint al-Aqsa mosque compound.

The fate of Jerusalem and its shrines are to be determined in final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians brokered by the United States. In the negotiations, which resumed last summer, the two sides set an April target date for agreeing on a framework for peace. But in recent weeks, they appear to have hardened their positions.

Jordan's king, whose royal Hashemite dynasty claims ancestry to the Prophet Muhammad, wants a future deal to satisfy Arab claims to east Jerusalem.

Jordan also maintains de facto custody over Christian shrines in east Jerusalem, which it ruled along with the West Bank for 17 years ending with Israel's seizure of the territory in the Six-Day War of June 1, 1967.

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