Jordan’s Call for Interfaith Dialogue on Staus of Jerusalem Raises Hackles

A suggestion from Jordan’s King Hussein that there be an interfaith dialogue among Muslims, Christians and Jews to discuss sovereignty over holy sites in Jerusalem drawn fire.

The subject is a touchy one, because the future status of Jerusalem is one of the most contentious issues in the Middle East peace process, with both Israelis and Arabs making claims to sovereignty.

And the issue is complicated by the fact that Jerusalem, the Israeli capital, is the site of Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy places.

“King Hussein’s suggestion is particularly hypocritical given the fact that during Jordan’s 19 years of control over East Jerusalem, Jordan practiced a policy of unmitigated religious intolerance towards Christians and Jews,” the national chairman, Melvin Salberg, and national director, Abraham Foxman, of the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement Wednesday.

Israel, for its part, maintains that it allows total freedom of access to the holy sites to people of all religions.

“Since we recognize the importance of Jerusalem and the holy sites to all three religions,” an Israeli official said Thursday, the Israeli government allows “full freedom of access to all denominations and all religions to all holy sites.”

“It is a policy we intend to keep,” the official said.

Meanwhile, during his visit here, King Hussein made some major gestures toward Israel. He spelled out his vision for a full peace between Israel and Jordan and stated his desire to meet soon with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

But one analyst said the King Hussein’s suggestion about the holy places in Jerusalem was not timely.

“Whatever his intentions may have been, I don’t see how this could be anything but counter-productive,” said Richard Haass, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment who served as a top Middle East adviser in the Bush administration.

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