The king walking on a tightrope

Jordan’s Hashimi Kingdom, which has control over Masjid al-Aqsa administration and the Islamic foundations in Jerusalem as a result of a series of agreements reached with Israel, has recently been going through the most intense of days. Amman is making efforts to prevent the incidents at al-Aqsa from getting out of control, while simultaneously trying to manage the new covert- overt attacks by the Israeli administration. Naturally, these are matters that push a country like Jordan’s military, intelligence and diplomatic boundaries a great deal.

After Israel closed the gates of Masjid al-Aqsa Friday morning on July 14; Jordan, unexpectedly stood by the demands of the Palestinian people. The Jordanian administration, which merely condemned previous attacks by Israel, this time mobilized its forces on the ground at full throttle. While the religious officials under its control were fighting Israeli soldiers at the front lines, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Palestine’s President of State Mahmoud Abbas took action against Israel in a tight diplomatic alliance. Jordan maintained its attitude against Israel with the same force until al-Aqsa’s doors were reopened on Thursday, July 27, after the two-week crisis.

In terms of those who are aware of the deep-rooted and multi-dimensional relations between Kind Abdullah’s administration and Israel, Jordan’s attitude was surprising. However, the attempt by Israel to set up an electronic surveillance system at the gates of Masjid al-Aqsa with a fait accompli policy had caused such severe and widespread fury on the Palestine front that Jordan could not dare overlook this anger.

The incidents at al-Aqsa were such that it could have triggered instability and chaos in Jordan, its population consisting mostly of Palestinians. As soon as al-Aqsa’s gates were closed, it was no coincidence that the first protests in the Muslim world were organized in Jordan’s capital Amman. The Jordanian administration noticed the danger and quickly reacted, gaining the favor of Palestinians and reaping the fruits of this action. Even Mahmoud Abbas, who is about to lose all credibility, has through this, started winning the hearts of the people of Jerusalem.

Although the problem in Masjid al-Aqsa is yet to end completely, the progress made after a two-week resistance boosted the Palestinians’ morale. The people of Jerusalem, who did not get as much support from the Arab and Muslim world as they would have liked, protected what is sacred to them by standing guard at the gates of al-Aqsa, by clashing with Israeli soldiers, and by getting wounded and losing their lives. Considering the dimensions of the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian cause having no guardian, this could be ascertained as a serious achievement. Even though it has taken a step for its own survival and political stability,  Jordan is currently considered, by the Palestinians, as a shareholder in this success.

Of course the Israeli administration was not going to watch this “flirtation” idly. Thus, news from Amman in the middle of the Aqsa crisis once again left King Abdullah in a tight spot in the public eye:

An Israeli security officer killed two Jordanian citizens at one of the residences at Israel’s Amman Embassy. In the official statement made by Israel, it was said the 17-year-old Jordanian who was killed had attacked the security officer, presenting the incident as self-defense. As for the other Jordanian, he was accidentally targeted and succumbed to his wounds at the hospital he was taken to in a critically wounded state.

Israel later used its right of diplomatic immunity within the scope of security agreements between the two countries and quickly withdrew its security officer from Jordan. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did more than this; he received the Israeli officer at his official residence and warmly embraced and congratulated him for what he did.

King Abdullah, who gained the favor of the Palestinians with his attitude regarding  al-Aqsa, was now in the position of a leader who couldn’t protect his own citizens from Israel’s attacks and, what’s more, he had to allow the murderer to leave the country. Although King Abdullah made a statement saying, “We want the security officer to be tried,” everybody – and primarily the king himself – knew that such a demand was unrealistic in light of the current balances in the region.

As all this is happening in and around Jerusalem, it was also really ironical that the calendar showed the second week of July. Jordan’s founding king and the current king’s grandfather’s father (also his forefather whom he was named after), Abdullah ibn Hussein, was shot dead on July 20, 1951 by a Palestinian at Masjid al-Aqsa, where he had gone to perform the Friday prayer. In the days leading up to King Abdullah’s assassination, like today, Jerusalem was again in the midst of conflict and chaos.  The tension among the Palestinians caused by Jordan’s administration getting too close to Israel would lead to that tragic eruption.

Jordan’s current king, Abdullah ibn Hussein, of course, could not have forgotten this terrible fate. While continuing communications with Israel behind curtains to maintain his tiny desert kingdom, keeping the fury of Palestinians under control is the king’s main point of focus. Naturally, this is an extremely difficult equation to maintain. So to speak, the king is like an acrobat walking on a tightrope. Yet, it is not known whether he is aware that, the tightrope he is attempting to cross without falling, step-by-step, is about to break.

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