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Netanyahu makes surprise visit to Jordan

Was this first meeting since 2018 between Bibi and King Abdullah meant to reassure Jordan over the status quo or simply to start off on the right foot after previously tense relations between the two?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Jordanian King Abdullah II in Amman in 2018 (Photo: Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an unannounced visit to Jordan this afternoon, his first international trip since assuming office after the new government was sworn-in on Dec. 27.

The meeting with King Abdullah II comes a week after a potential diplomatic brouhaha was averted when the Jordanian ambassador to Israel was delayed by Israeli police on his way to pray at Al Aqsa Mosque.

The trip also comes at a critical time, considering rising fear in the Arab world that members of Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition will upset the status quo on the Temple Mount, the flashpoint holy site over which Jordan is the custodian.

Israel's National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the far-right Jewish Power party, visited the site on Jan. 3 – his first visit as a minister. Jordan summoned the Israeli ambassador in Amman twice, both for Ben Gvir's walk on the Temple Mount and over the delayed entry to Al Aqsa for the Jordanian ambassador.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, “the two leaders discussed regional issues, especially strategic, security and economic cooperation between Israel and Jordan, which contributes to regional stability.”

A Jordanian statement said that Abdullah stressed “the importance of respecting the historical and legal status quo” at the Temple Mount. He said that Amman continues to support a two-state solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

The palace statement added that the king stressed "the need to maintain calm and cease all acts of violence, in order to pave the way for a political horizon for the peace process."

Israel and the Palestinians have not engaged in direct negotiations for several years.

According to Israel’s Channel 12 news, Netanyahu promised Abdullah that the status quo will not be upset.

“It was a good meeting that underlined the years of familiarity the leaders have with each other,” the network quoted a source as saying.

This was the first meeting between the leaders since 2018. During Netanyahu’s previous term as prime minister, relations between Israel and Jordan were chilly at best and, at times, cantankerous.

Under former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the Israeli government focused on improving ties with its neighbor. Bennett, former Prime Minister Yair Lapid and former Defense Minister Benny Gantz were among some of the Israeli leaders who visited the Hashemite Kingdom during the government's year in power. Several economic agreements were signed between the two countries during that time.

The "status quo" is the term used to refer to the arrangement between Israel and Jordan that non-Muslims may visit the Temple Mount during certain hours but only Muslims are allowed to pray there.

Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS

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