Jordan’s King Abdullah warns of repeat Al-Aqsa violence in Biden phone call

Palestinians put out a fire following violence between Israeli security forces and demonstrators at Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City (Reuters)

Khaled Yacoub Oweis

The National  /  April 25, 2022

King Abdullah discusses situation in Jerusalem with US president.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II warned on Monday against repeat violence in Jerusalem, keeping up a diplomatic effort focused on countering Israeli actions in the city after tension around Al-Aqsa Mosque subsided.

The king has placed the mosque at the centre of Jordanian foreign policy in the past three months, after resuming high-level contact with Israeli officials.

Jordan is seeking higher regional profile since Donald Trump’s US administration sidelined the country as it focused on normalization between Gulf Arab states and Israel.

The official news agency said the king agreed during a phone call with US President Joe Biden on the need to “prevent a repetition of the assaults on the city of Jerusalem, its shrines, and people”.

“His majesty affirmed the need to respect the historic and legal status quo of  Al-Aqsa Mosque,” in the context of “the Hashemite custodianship of these shrines,” the agency said.

A US statement said Mr Biden “welcomed recent steps to reduce tensions and expressed his hope that the final week of Ramadan will pass peacefully”.

Ties between Jordan and Israel deteriorated in the aftermath of the 11-day war between the Iranian-backed group Hamas and Israel in May last year. Violence at Al Aqsa partly sparked the war.

Jordan blames the entry of extremist Jews into Al-Aqsa for clashes in recent weeks in which scores of people, mostly Palestinians, were injured.

At least one Palestinian man is in a coma. His condition is critical after sustaining a head wound in a confrontation with Israeli police.

Since the beginning of this year, Palestinian extremists have killed at least 14 people in Israel. Raids by Israeli security forces killed 20 Palestinians in the West Bank.

Jordanian officials say only the kingdom’s Religious Affairs Ministry can decide who enters Al Aqsa and only Muslims can worship at the shrine.

The mosque is on a site holy to Muslims and Jews alike that was formerly administered by Jordan. In 1967, Israel occupied the compound along with East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said on Sunday that Israel was committed to preventing Jews from praying at Al-Aqsa but that Jews and other non-Muslims could visit the site.

The 1994 Jordanian-Israel peace treaty says Israel recognizes a “special role” for Jordan in Jerusalem’s Muslim holy shrines but does not specifically mention custodianship.

Jordan signed an enhanced security pact with Washington last year and is one of the three largest recipients of US aid, after Israel and Egypt.

Officials privately say that despite differences with Washington over Palestine and other issues, such as a rapprochement initiated by Jordan last year with President Bashar al-Assad, the relationship with Washington remains paramount.

Unemployment in Jordan is officially at about 24 per cent, a record high in the country. The public debt, at $50 billion, exceeds the size of the economy.

King Abdullah “expressed his appreciation for the continued support that the United States presents to Jordan in all sectors,” the news agency said.