Jordan to Give Muslim Shrines in Jerusalem to Palestinians
CASABLANCA, Morocco (AP) _ Jordan will relinquish control of Muslim shrines in east Jerusalem once the Palestinians agree with Israel on their claim to the city as their future capital, Jordan’s crown prince said Tuesday.
Shrines holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians are located in east Jerusalem, and control of the Muslim sites is a central issue in Arab-Israeli peace negotiations.
Palestinians believe allowing Jordan to control Muslim sites undermines their claim to the city as capital of a future Palestinian state. Talks with Israel on east Jerusalem’s status begin in 1996.
″In the final settlement, when all responsibility is transferred to the Palestinian authority, sites will also be transferred,″ Crown Prince Hassan said at the Middle East-North Africa Economic Summit. ″We cannot relinquish the control of sites of Arabic and Islamic character to Israeli occupiers.″
The Israel-Jordan peace treaty signed Oct. 26 granted Jordan control of the Muslim shrines. Israel seized the city from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East war, although Jordan has helped administer the sites since then.
Jordan’s King Hussein had said Sunday that he would transfer Islamic shrines to the Palestinians when they are ready for the responsibility.
Some Israelis opposed giving the sites to Jordan, and on Tuesday, several right-wing legislators toured the shrines to demonstrate Israeli sovereignty over the disputed city.
The lawmakers visited the tree-shaded Haram as-Sharif, or Noble Enclosure, a 36-acre raised platform that houses both the Dome of the Rock Mosque and Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site. Next to the Haram is the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site.
Muslim officials denounced the tour as provocative.
Last week, Palestinians said they would lock the gates to the Haram if Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert accompanied President Clinton, in Israel as part of his Middle East peace tour, to the Muslim sites. Clinton canceled the visit, not wishing to hurt political sensitivities of either side.
Jerusalem’s Arab population grew faster than the Jewish population last year, although Jews remain a majority, according to figures released Tuesday by the city.
Jews comprised 71.7 percent of the population at the end of 1993, down from 72.1 percent in 1992, according to the Planning Department. Jerusalem had 567,147 people, including 406,371 Jews and 160,776 non-Jews, most of them Palestinian.
The Jerusalem Post newspaper noted that many Jews were leaving for other Israeli cities.