1674629545 Netanyahu and Abdullah meet in Jordan and signal they want

Netanyahu and Abdullah meet in Jordan and signal they want to ease tensions

For the first time in over four years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Jordan on Tuesday to meet King Abdullah II, the prime minister’s office said after the visit concluded.

According to the statement, the two leaders discussed “strategic, security and economic cooperation” during the meeting, the first between the leaders in over four years. They also spoke about the importance of the alliance between the countries.

The visit seemingly suggests that both sides are keen to avoid the public spats that have characterized the relationship since Netanyahu was in office.

It was Netanyahu’s first known visit to Amman since a secret trip in 2018 amid the Donald Trump administration’s attempt to negotiate a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

In their reading, the Jordanians focused “on the need to respect and not harm the historical and legal status quo in the Blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif.”

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The warning came weeks after State Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s first visit to the Temple Mount in office, prompting angry condemnation from the Arab world. Jordan summoned the Israeli ambassador to a dressing-down.

Ahead of Ben Gvir’s trip, Amman had signaled that a visit by the minister or steps that go against the status quo would have far-reaching consequences, including the possibility of a diplomatic demotion.

Netanyahu and Abdullah meet in Jordan and signal they want

Jewish worshipers visit the Temple Mount on the grounds of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City, Tuesday, January 3, 2023. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

During the meeting with Netanyahu, Abdullah also underscored his support for a two-state solution that would guarantee a Palestinian state following the 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as the capital.

Abdullah was accompanied by his foreign minister Ayman Safadi, chief of staff Jaafar Haasan and intelligence chief Ahmed Hosni.

The neighbors, who fought each other in major wars but also maintained covert contacts, signed a peace treaty in 1994.

The surprise meeting is notable given the tense history between the two leaders.

1674629539 879 Netanyahu and Abdullah meet in Jordan and signal they want

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi addresses a panel discussion at the Doha Forum in Qatar’s capital March 26, 2022. (Ammar Abd Rabbo/MOFA/Doha Forum/AFP)

During Netanyahu’s final tenure as prime minister from 2009 to 2021, relations between Jerusalem and Amman deteriorated significantly, with Abdullah saying in 2019 that ties were “at an all-time low” following a series of incidents that prompted Jordan to recall its ambassador to Israel. be.

Observers have fully expected a deterioration in Israeli-Jordanian relations after thawing frosty relations during Naftali Bennett-Yair Lapid’s government. Any significant deterioration would complicate Netanyahu’s relationship with US President Joe Biden’s administration, which has prioritized its ties with Jordan, would complicate the expansion of the Abraham Accords, and could be a source of real unrest in Jerusalem.

Jordan was already nervous about changes to the Temple Mount during Netanyahu’s previous tenure. His secret visit to Saudi Arabia in 2020 raised concerns in Amman that warming relations between Jerusalem and Riyadh could see Israel shifting the leading Muslim role at the compound from the Jordanians to the Saudis, possibly with the support of the USA.

A year earlier, in 2019, Abdullah said he was under pressure to change his country’s historical role on the Temple Mount, but stated that he would not change his position.

Jordan’s Hashemite monarchy has played a unique role at the holy site since 1924 – which, although not Israel, it calls a “guardianship.”

Netanyahu and Abdullah meet in Jordan and signal they want

Jordanian Ambassador to Israel Ghassan Majali (L) argues with an Israeli police officer on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem January 17, 2023. (Screenshot: Twitter; Used in accordance with Section 27a of the Copyright Act)

Israel captured the Temple Mount and the Old City of Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War, almost two decades after Amman captured it during the 1948 War of Independence. However, Israel allowed the Jordanian Waqf to continue to retain religious authority on the mountain.

Joshua Krasna, Middle East researcher at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, called Jordan’s role on the Temple Mount a “pillar” of Hashemite legitimacy.

Following another recent row on the Temple Mount – during which Jordan’s ambassador to Israel was briefly stopped by police while visiting the site – Amman showed eagerness to defuse tensions.

A letter of reprimand that the Jordanian Foreign Ministry handed to Israeli Ambassador Eitan Surkis was appropriate and showed a desire to proceed, an Israeli official said.

“Jordan expressed its anger in the most diplomatic way,” said Amman-based journalist and commentator Osama Al Sharif. “But there’s a sense that it doesn’t want things to get out of hand either.”

Netanyahu’s predecessor Lapid met Abdullah in Jordan and at the United Nations. Bennett also met with the Jordanian king in Amman.

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