Jordan's king visits West Bank: A rare trip seen as message to Israel

At a time of rising Israeli-Jordanian and Israeli-Palestinian tensions, Jordan's King Abdullah II visits the Palestinian government compound and met with President Mahmoud Abbas. 

Nasser Nasser/AP
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (r.) meets with Jordan's King Abdullah II (l.) at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017.

Jordan's king flew by helicopter to the West Bank on Monday – a rare and brief visit seen as a signal to Israel that he is closing ranks with the Palestinians on key issues, such as a contested Jerusalem shrine.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Abdullah II met for about two hours, after a red-carpet welcome for the monarch at the Palestinian government compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The two leaders discussed the recent showdown with Israel over the Muslim-administered shrine, including confronting alleged Israeli attempts to expand its role there, said Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki.

"This evaluation is very important for us to prepare for the coming stage we expect from Israel and from (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu personally," Mr. Malki said.

Israel has denied allegations by Muslims that it was trying to encroach on their rights at the holy site, which is also revered by Jews.

Mr. Abdullah's visit to the West Bank, his first in five years, came at a time of rising Israeli-Jordanian and Israeli-Palestinian tensions over the shrine, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

The crisis erupted when Israel installed metal detectors at gates to the compound after Arab gunmen killed two Israeli policemen there in mid-July. The measures triggered protests by Muslims.

Israel removed the devices after a few days, after intervention from the United States, Jordan and others. The step was seen by many in Israel as a capitulation and by Palestinians and the Arab world as a victory.

The shrine, a sprawling 37-acre esplanade rising from Jerusalem's walled Old City, is the third holiest site of Islam and the most sacred one in Judaism. It is central to rival Israeli and Palestinian religious and national narratives and has triggered major confrontations in the past.

Jordan serves as the Muslim custodian of the site, home to the Al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques. Jordan's ruling Hashemite dynasty has drawn much of its legitimacy from that role.

On Sunday, Abdullah told lawmakers in Jordan that "without the Hashemite custodianship and the steadfastness of the Jerusalemites, the holy sites would have been lost many years ago."

"Our success requires one stand with the Palestinian brothers, so that our cause wouldn't be weakened and our rights would be maintained," he said.

However, the monarch's role in the standoff with Israel was complicated by a July 23 shooting in which an Israeli guard at the Israeli Embassy in Jordan killed two Jordanians after one attacked him with a screwdriver.

The guard was released by Jordan the next day, after a phone call between the king and Mr. Netanyahu. A few hours later, the metal detectors were dismantled.

The guard's release, though in line with diplomatic protocol, has inflamed Jordanian public opinion, especially after the shooter was given a hero's welcome by Netanyahu. The king blasted the prime minister's actions as "provocative."

Israeli authorities have since said they would investigate the embassy shootings, meeting a Jordanian demand.

Since the embassy shooting, Abdullah has taken several steps that appeared aimed at appeasing Jordanian public opinion.

He has said he would donate $1.4 million to the Muslim administration of the shrine.

Separately, Mr. Abbas has said his self-rule government in the West Bank will allocate $25 million to improve services for Palestinians in Jerusalem.

During the shrine crisis, Abbas said he was suspending security ties with Israel until the metal detectors have been removed.

It is not clear to what extent such ties – mainly cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian forces against the Islamic militant Hamas – has resumed.

This story was reported by the Associated Press.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Jordan's king visits West Bank: A rare trip seen as message to Israel
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2017/0807/Jordan-s-king-visits-West-Bank-A-rare-trip-seen-as-message-to-Israel
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe