Jordan’s King Abdullah Discusses Tensions With Israel in Ramallah

RAMALLAH (Reuters) -
Jordan’s King Abdullah II shakes hands with an honor guard during a reception ceremony in Ramallah, Monday. (Reuters/Mohamad Torokman)

Jordan’s King Abdullah II met Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Monday for the first time in five years to discuss tensions at Har HaBayis and broader political developments.

While the two leaders meet fairly frequently in Amman and other regional capitals, Abdullah has not visited Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, since December 2012.

The king flew in by helicopter. The visit was coordinated with Israeli authorities. It comes two weeks after a surge in violence in Yerushalayim following the killing of two Israeli policemen on Har HaBayis and the subsequent increase in security at the site, with the installation of metal detectors.

The change in security led to days of protests and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, before Israel, after consultations with Jordan, decided to remove the metal detectors and other measures.

“The visit comes in the course of continued consultation and coordination on all levels,” said Nabil Abu Rudainah, Abbas’s spokesman.

Jordan, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994 and has growing, if little-discussed, economic ties with its neighbor, often plays a mediating role in the region.

“We discussed all issues of mutual interest and we agreed to form a crisis committee that will continue contacts to evaluate what has happened, the lessons to be learned and the challenges we may face at Al-Aqsa mosque,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Reyad Al-Maliki told reporters after the meeting.

President Donald Trump’s regional envoy, Jason Greenblatt, has made several trips to Amman, Ramallah and Yerushalayim this year to try to find common ground, but there is little sign of enthusiasm on anyone’s part to start negotiating again.

Abdullah is also playing a role in liaising with Egypt and others to see if long-standing differences between Abbas’s Western-backed Fatah party and the rival Hamas Islamist movement can be resolved.

Hamas, which won the last parliamentary elections held in the Palestinian territories in 2005, seized full control of Gaza after a struggle with Fatah in 2007.

Over the past several months, Abbas, as head of the Palestinian Authority, has stepped up pressure on Hamas, cutting off salaries for civil servants in Gaza and limiting payments for electricity imports and some medicines.

The aim appears to be to oust Hamas from power, but there is little sign of that happening. Efforts are being made by regional powers to resolve the internal fighting.