Jordan’s King Abdullah II met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah on Monday, in his first trip to the Israeli-occupied West Bank since 2017, Abbas’s office said.
Abdullah’s visit came as foreign ministers from four Arab countries and the US wrapped up a meeting which host Israel hailed as “historic”, following a series of normalisation agreements last year which angered the Palestinians. Abdullah’s visit, which lasted about two hours, was held less than a week before Ramadan, the Muslim holy month which last year saw waves of violence across the West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
The Jordanian king met Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid earlier this month to discuss strategies for containing unrest during Ramadan. Palestinian officials have repeatedly warned that the West Bank, which Israel captured from Jordan in 1967, was on the verge of “exploding”.
Tensions in the occupied territory remain high between Palestinian residents and Jewish settlers, who live in communities widely regarded as illegal under international law. Palestinians also regularly clash with Israeli security forces in the West Bank, often resulting in Palestinian deaths.
Tahani Mustafa, West Bank analyst at the International Crisis Group think-tank, told AFP that Jordan was seeking to be proactive after having been “caught off guard” last year, when Ramadan tensions escalated into an 11-day conflict between Israel and the Hamas Islamists who control Gaza. “Already we’ve seen significant tension in Jerusalem which hasn’t died down since the last line of conflict,” she told AFP.
“It only makes sense for Jordan to try and intervene in some way to quell tensions.” Jordan has a special role as custodian of the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam. Monday’s meeting deep inside Israel’s Negev desert was attended by the top diplomats from the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco — which established ties with Israel in 2020 — and Egypt, which recognised the Jewish state in 1979.
Jordan is the only other Arab country to have full diplomatic relations with Israel, formed in 1994. Mustafa said Amman had to be particularly “sensitive about how it publicly navigates its relationship with Israel because of the high number of Palestinians that it hosts” inside Jordan.—APP