Netanyahu Meets Jordan's King, Reportedly Vows to Keep Status-quo at J'lem Holy Sites

The unannounced meeting between the two leaders is the first since Benjamin Netanyahu's recent victory in the Israeli elections, which have prompted tensions between the neighboring countries over the Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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A meeting between King Abdullah II and Benjamin Netanyahu, 2014.
A meeting between King Abdullah II and Benjamin Netanyahu, 2014.Credit: Kobi Gideon / GPO
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah II on Tuesday, according to the Prime Minister's Office.

The two leaders spoke about regional issues, specifically the strategic, security and economic ties between Israel and Jordan.

According to Israeli sources, the atmosphere in the meeting was good, as talks continued beyond the allotted time, ending after around two and a half hours.

Prime Minister Netanyahu reportedly promised King Abdullah that the status quo in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound would be maintained, a political source said.

According to the Jordanian royal palace, the king emphasized the importance of respecting the status quo in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, of preventing an escalation in violence and of the need to stop all unilateral measures that harm the chance for a future two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.

Apart from Netanyahu, several other senior Israeli officials took part in the meeting, including the head of the Shin Bet security service, the head of the National Security Council, the cabinet secretary, the military secretary and the Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer.

One of the main issues raised in the meeting was the fear of escalation in Jerusalem and the West Bank during Ramadan which will take place at the same time as Passover this year.

Israel and Jordan are working to construct measures that will help calm tensions ahead of the holidays.

Haaretz reported earlier this month that several Arab states have approached Israel and warned of their fear of a violent outbreak in the West Bank and Gaza during Ramadan in March. Adding that this is expected to be the new government's first significant test in its dealings with the Palestinians.

They emphasized that National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir's visit to the Temple Mount, and the moves he will make as the head of the police, may be perceived as provocations that will lead to escalation in the field.

A source involved in relations between the two countries said that "The power that Ben-Gvir received on the Temple Mount alongside the transfer of the powers of the Civil Administration to Bezalel Smotrich are very disturbing."

Tensions between Israel and Jordan have been running high since Netanyahu returned to power last month. His national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, visited the Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa compound, prompting accusations that the far-right minister is undermining the longstanding religious status-quo at the Jerusalem holy site.

Last week, Israeli police officers held up the Jordanian ambassador to Israel, Ghassan Majali, at the entrance to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Tuesday in Jerusalem, leading Majali to leave in protest. Jordan's Foreign Ministry summoned Israel's ambassador in Amman immediately after the incident to protest Israel's conduct at the holy site.

At the conclusion of a visit to Israel last week, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan issued a statement repeating the red lines that other Biden administration officials had already laid out, including maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount.

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City is considered the holiest site in Judaism, having been the seat of the two ancient temples. At the same time, it is also the seat of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam’s third-holiest site.

Since Israel conquered East Jerusalem in 1967, it allows Jews to visit on the condition that they refrain from prayer or religious rites, but radical groups have been praying there with increasing frequency, sometimes under the protection of the police.

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