The Jordanian government’s latest statement on Jerusalem reveals an inherent contradiction in policy. On one hand, the Jordanians hold the position that the Palestinians, not the Israelis, should have sovereign control over the holy city. This stance is par for the course. Nearly all Arab governments privilege Palestinian sovereignty. On the other hand, Jordan maintains that its king, Abdullah II, is the rightful heir to the city’s major religious sites.
“The king cannot give up Jerusalem,” asserted Chairman of the Jordanian Senate Faisal al-Fayez in a policy statement.
Invoking the king’s royal pedigree and his alleged relational links to the Prophet Mohammad, al-Fayez insisted that Abdullah’s Hashemite blood entitles him to control over the sacred spaces of Jerusalem, sites that hold profound spiritual meaning for Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike.
“The subject of Hashemite tutelage is very important, there is a spiritual relationship between the Hashemite kings and Jerusalem,” stated al-Fayez.
The Hashemites (or the House of Hashim) claims to descend from Hashim ibn ‘Abd Manaf, the great-grandfather of Mohammad and founding father of Mecca’s Banu Hashim clan Quraish tribe of which the Prophet is a member of. The royal house began ruling Jordan in 1921 after governing Mecca and other key sites in Islamic history centuries prior.
Ruling as a constitutional monarch, Abdullah purports to be a sayyid, an honorific title granted to those who trace their ancestry to Mohammad. A sayyid is born with a myriad of religious and privileges as a result of his lineage.
Said to be the 43rd direct descendent of the Prophet, Abdullah’s ancestral claims appear to have more merit than those of the thousands of emirs, royals, and sheikhs across Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and the Arab world who have capitalized on loose, ambiguous, or outright false links to the Islamic holy figure to bolster socio-political prestige.
For years now, the Crown of Jordan has leveraged the religious capital its alleged lineage to supersede various claims to Jerusalem and retain control of one of Islam’s holiest shrines, the Dome of the Rock in the Old City of Jerusalem. To this day, the monarch exercises its territorial authority over the site via the waqf.
Contemporary debates and discussions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict usually fail to mention the fact that Jordan illegally annexed Jerusalem in 1949 and retained control over the the city until the Six-Day War of 1967, in which the young state of Israel defeated a coalition of Arab states that included, Jordan, Egypt, and Syria and expanded its sovereign territory.
Prior to 1967, little, if any historical evidence exists to suggest that Palestinian nationalist movements wished to supersede Jordan’s territorial authority and claim sovereignty over Jerusalem. It was only after the war that a patchwork of nascent Palestinian rights groups included control over at least some area of Jerusalem as an inalienable demand in nationalist creeds.
As it stands, Jordan’s religious authority over land in Jerusalem runs counter to the Palestinian project. Seemingly at ease with this contradiction, Amman continues to tout its unwavering solidarity with the Palestinians.
If the Palestinians accept [a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict], we will accept the solution, and if they do not accept it, we will not accept it,” declares the Jordanian Senate’s latest policy statement on the matter.