Jor­dan king backs Pales­tinian leader

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Jor­dan’s King Ab­dul­lah II of­fered sup­port to Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas dur­ing a rare visit yes­ter­day to the oc­cu­pied West Bank fol­low­ing ten­sions with Is­rael over a flash­point Jerusalem holy site. Ab­dul­lah’s first trip to the West Bank in five years was seen as a mes­sage to Is­rael and the United States over the sen­si­tive Al-Aqsa mosque com­pound and the stalled peace process. It came less than two weeks af­ter the end of a stand­off at the holy site over new se­cu­rity mea­sures, in­clud­ing metal de­tec­tors, im­posed by Is­rael fol­low­ing an at­tack that killed two po­lice­men.

Ab­dul­lah stressed to Ab­bas “the full Jor­da­nian sup­port for the le­git­i­mate rights of its brothers the Pales­tinian peo­ple and sup­port for the es­tab­lish­ment of an in­de­pen­dent Pales­tinian state with its cap­i­tal in east Jerusalem”, a state­ment from Jor­dan’s royal palace said. He backed the need to pro­tect Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque com­pound, warn­ing Is­raeli at­tempts to change the sta­tus quo - un­der which Jor­dan is cus­to­dian of the site and Jewish prayer is for­bid­den “would have neg­a­tive con­se­quences for the whole re­gion”.

The Al-Aqsa com­pound is also holy to Jews, who re­fer to it as the Tem­ple Mount as it is be­lieved to be on the site of the first and sec­ond Jewish Tem­ples, the lat­ter of which was de­stroyed by the Ro­mans in 70 AD. Ab­dul­lah also “called for the com­mit­ment of US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to work to re­alise peace be­tween Pales­tini­ans and Is­raelis”. The king flew by he­li­copter to Ra­mal­lah and a red car­pet wel­come from Ab­bas. He re­turned to Jor­dan af­ter a meet­ing that lasted around an hour and a half. The king did not meet any Is­raeli of­fi­cials.

Jor­dan re­acted an­grily last month to the new se­cu­rity mea­sures at the mosque com­pound, which sparked sev­eral days of protests and clashes in Jerusalem’s Old City, the oc­cu­pied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Pales­tinian for­eign min­is­ter Riyad Al-Malki told re­porters that Ab­bas and Ab­dul­lah yes­ter­day dis­cussed “di­rect Is­raeli at­tacks on the Al-Aqsa mosque”. Ten­sions were ex­ac­er­bated on July 23 when an Is­raeli se­cu­rity guard shot dead two Jor­da­ni­ans at the Is­raeli embassy com­pound in Amman. One of the two men at­tacked the Is­raeli with a screw­driver, and the other was ap­par­ently shot dead by ac­ci­dent, Is­raeli of­fi­cials said.

The cri­sis eased on July 27 when Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu or­dered the re­moval of the metal de­tec­tors. He has also promised to in­ves­ti­gate the embassy in­ci­dent. Ab­dul­lah’s visit was seen by an­a­lysts as a show of sup­port for Ab­bas, who has been iso­lated by Is­rael over his re­sponse to the Al-Aqsa row.

The mosque com­pound is in east Jerusalem, oc­cu­pied by Is­rael in 1967 in a move never recog­nised by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. The 1994 peace treaty be­tween Is­rael and Jor­dan rec­og­nizes Amman’s spe­cial sta­tus as of­fi­cial cus­to­dian of Jerusalem’s holy Mus­lim sites. About half of Jor­dan’s 9.5 mil­lion cit­i­zens are of Pales­tinian ori­gin. Ne­tanyahu’s re­moval of the metal de­tec­tors was seen by Pales­tini­ans as a vic­tory.

At Ab­bas’ head­quar­ters a large ban­ner dis­played a pic­ture of the Al-Aqsa com­pound with the slo­gan “Jerusalem is vic­to­ri­ous”. “It ap­pears that King Ab­dul­lah wants to show through his visit that he stands with the Pales­tinian peo­ple in the bat­tle for Jerusalem,” Pales­tinian po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Ab­del Ma­jid Sweilem told AFP. In a state­ment on the of­fi­cial state news agency Pe­tra, the king was quoted as say­ing that with­out Jor­da­nian “cus­to­di­an­ship and the stead­fast­ness of the Jerusalemites, the holy sites would have been lost many years ago”.

Dur­ing the cri­sis over the metal de­tec­tors, 82-yearold Ab­bas sus­pended se­cu­rity co­or­di­na­tion with Is­rael, and this has re­mained sus­pended de­spite their re­moval. The de­ci­sion sparked Is­raeli anger, with ac­cu­sa­tions he was en­cour­ag­ing vi­o­lence. “This visit sends a mes­sage from his majesty that he is willing to con­trib­ute to re­mov­ing pres­i­dent Ab­bas’s iso­la­tion fol­low­ing his de­ci­sion to stop the se­cu­rity co­or­di­na­tion with Is­rael,” Samir Awad, pol­i­tics pro­fes­sor at Birzeit Univer­sity near Ra­mal­lah in the West Bank, told AFP.

In Jan­uary, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump came to power promis­ing to push Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans to­wards a peace deal, rais­ing brief hopes among Pales­tini­ans that his un­con­ven­tional ap­proach could achieve re­sults. But Pales­tini­ans have be­come in­creas­ingly frus­trated by what they see as his ne­go­ti­at­ing team’s one-sided ap­proach. Trump’s team has yet to pub­licly com­mit to the two-state so­lu­tion, the idea of an in­de­pen­dent Pales­tinian state next to Is­rael that has been the ba­sis of decades of in­ter­na­tional consensus. Malki said Ab­bas and Ab­dul­lah had agreed that for any po­lit­i­cal process to move for­ward “there must be recog­ni­tion of the prin­ci­ple of a two-state so­lu­tion”. — AFP

RA­MAL­LAH: Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas (right) meets Jor­dan’s King Ab­dul­lah II at his of­fice in this West Bank city yes­ter­day. — AP

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