Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Jordanian newspapers today are reporting that Jordanian officials confirm that Jews have no right to pray on the Temple Mount, according to the Israel-Jordan peace treaty signed in 1994.

They were responding to members of Knesset who said that the treaty did not require any Jordanian approval for Jews to pray there.

Who is right?

Here is the text of the relevant article of the treaty, from Jordan's King Hussein website:

Article 9 - Places of Historical and Religious Significance and Interfaith Relations

1. Each Party will provide freedom of access to places of religious and historical significance.

2. In this regard, in accordance with the Washington Declaration, Israel respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem. When negotiations on the permanent status will take place, Israel will give high priority to the Jordanian historic role in these shrines.

3. The Parties will act together to promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions, with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, freedom of religious worship, and tolerance and peace.

Paragraph 1 makes it clear that nothing can prohibit Jews from visiting the Temple Mount, just as Muslims or Christians cannot be banned from the area either.

Paragraph 2 has two parts. The first is clearly not prescriptive; it is simply a statement that Israel "respects" Jordan's "special role" without saying what that role is. It does not give Jordan any power to create rules.

The second part is almost prescriptive but not quite; it uses the word "will" instead of the stronger "shall." It also doesn't define what it means to give "high priority" to Jordan's "historic role." If Israel is the party assigning priorities to Jordan's role, that means that Israel can override them. Most importantly, however, is that this sentence only refers to the time of permanent status negotiations (implying that Jordan will be a party to the talks) but it does not say that Jordan's role, whatever that is, is permanent.

Paragraph 3 explicitly calls for freedom of religious worship. This indicates that not only is Israel permitted to allow Jews to visit the Temple Mount and perhaps to allow them to pray, as the previous two paragraphs implied, but it enshrines the freedom for Jews to pray on their holiest site is. Banning such prayer would be a violation not only of human rights law but of this treaty itself.

The peace agreement certainly does not give Jordan any custodianship or powers over the Temple Mount. The best that can be said is that it demands Israel take Jordan's opinion into account, but Jordan has no veto power over how the holy sites are governed. Moreover, the third paragraph shows that freedom of worship is a critical principle to be upheld by both parties, which would naturally include freedom for Jews to worship.

In short, the Jordanians who claim that the treaty gives them the right to ban Jewish worship are not being truthful.




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