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Jordan's role over holy sites in East Jerusalem legal and sovereignty-related

Aug 12,2018 - Last updated at Aug 12,2018

Jordan's custodianship over the Islamic and Christian holy sites in East Jerusalem is resting on several pillars, including the 1994 Jordanian-Israeli Wadi Araba Peace Treaty. Not enough has been made to rest on legal and sovereignty grounds, and I venture to explain this grave omission.

While the peace treaty with Israel stipulated in Article 9 that Israel will respect the “present special role" of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on Muslim holy shrines in Jerusalem and that it, meaning Israel, will give high priority to the Jordanian historic role on these shrines when negotiations on the permanent status will take place, it failed to state two fundamental points: namely the inclusion of the Christian holy places and reference to Jordan's sovereign rights in East Jerusalem.

Jordanian representatives at the negotiating table then have erred, and erred grievously, by not extending the scope of this article to the Christian sites as well. They have blundered even more gravely when they omitted reference to the legal and sovereignty rights of Jordan when addressing Jordan's special role over the holy places in East Jerusalem.

I rest my case on UN Security Council Resolution 242, adopted on November 22, 1967 in the aftermath of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. That resolution stipulates in no uncertain terms the withdrawal of Israel from the occupied Arab territories. There was no doubt, either before the adoption of that resolution or after, that all the parties were referring to Jordanian territorial rights in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, when speaking of Israeli withdrawals. There were differences then that ensued about whether the resolution called for Israel's withdrawal from "all "or just "from the" occupied territories, but for the purposes of this article this controversy does not amount to much.

US secretary of state at the time Henry Kissinger stated unequivocally that Jordan's acceptance of Resolution 242 is contingent on Israel's withdrawal from occupied Jordanian territories, including East Jerusalem. Kissinger said at the time that the Jordanian acceptance of Resolution 242 was conditioned on the return of the West Bank of Jordan to Jordan, with minor boundary rectifications. Kissinger also confirmed that Jordan's recognition of the resolution was made conditional on the respect of Jordan's status quo role in East Jerusalem.

As for the counter argument that Jordan had surrendered or forfeited these rights when it decided to cut off "all legal and administrative" relations with the West Bank, as a jurist, I have to say the following by way of rebuttal. First of all, the unity of the West Bank with the East Bank was officially and constitutionally adopted on 24 of April 1950. No one disputes this fact. The Constitution of the country at the time was the 1952 Constitution, which stipulated in no uncertain terms that no part of the Kingdom shall be ceded, period. This provision makes the 1988 decision to cut off all legal and administrative relations between the two banks stopping short of ceding the West Bank to any side whatsoever. Any other interpretation of the 1988 political decision is absolutely untenable constitutionally.

On the strength of the foregoing, Jordan's role over the holy sites in East Jerusalem is not only historic or religious, but legal and sovereignty-related in every sense of the word.

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