AMMAN, Jan 24 (Portal) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a surprise trip to Jordan on Tuesday to meet King Abdullah, who the royal court said underscored the need for Israel to change the status quo of Al-Aqsa Mosque in to respect Jerusalem.
Far-right Israeli Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir toured the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which Jews revere as the Temple Mount, under tight security this month. The visit angered the Palestinians and sparked an outcry in the Arab states.
The complex is the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina and the holiest site in Judaism.
Abdullah told Netanyahu, who took office last month and whose visit to Jordan marks his first trip abroad since returning to power, that Israel should “respect and not violate the historical and legal status quo at the Holy Aqsa Mosque,” he said king court said.
The monarch, who had strained relations with Netanyahu for years during his previous tenure as prime minister, was quoted as telling the Israeli leader that an end to the violence is crucial to resuming long-stalled peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel to allow.
Netanyahu’s office said the two leaders discussed regional issues, specifically strategic, security and economic cooperation between Israel and Jordan.
Jerusalem is a particularly sensitive issue for Jordan’s Hashemite royal family as it is the custodian of Muslim and Christian holy sites in the eastern part of the city.
Netanyahu’s return to power has heightened Jordan’s fears that far-right policies, which include accelerating construction of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, will trigger a new cycle of violence.
The kingdom fears provocative moves by far-right Jewish groups who are performing prayers at Al-Aqsa’s compound, which Muslims consider part of the mosque. There are concerns that the prayer area could ignite religious passions.
Jewish religious nationalists have increasingly toured the site, demanding rights for Jews to pray on the mosque grounds, Jordan said undermining an agreement in which Jews and non-Muslims can visit but not worship. This rule has prevailed for years.
Jordan is a staunch Washington ally and home to many people of Palestinian descent. It is hoped that US President Joe Biden’s administration will pressure Israel to maintain the status quo at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which Jordan is paying for its upkeep.
Officials told Portal that King Abdullah is expected to visit Washington in late January. He will hold talks with senior US officials and possibly meet Biden and raise the issue of Jerusalem and ways to advance the stalled Middle East peace process.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi shortly after Ben Gvir’s visit. According to a State Department statement, Blinken emphasized the importance of preserving the historical status quo at the site.
Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi in Amman Additional reporting by Rose Emily in Jerusalem Edited by Timothy Heritage and Matthew Lewis
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