RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Jordan’s King Abdullah II paid a rare visit to the West Bank on Thursday in a show of support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ successful bid for UN status upgrade.
Abbas and the king are political allies, and last met Sunday in Jordan, during one of the Palestinian leader’s frequent stops in the neighboring kingdom. But Thursday’s visit was just the third time the king has visited the West Bank, and the first time in more than a year.
The king received a red carpet welcome with military honors at Abbas’s government compound in the West Bank after landing in a helicopter Thursday morning.
Last week, the UN General Assembly recognized a state of Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem — lands Israel occupied in 1967 — as a nonmember observer.
The king’s arrival gave a high-profile boost of support to the UN bid, which has come under fierce Israeli criticism. Jordan is one of just two Arab countries with a peace agreement with Israel, so Abdullah’s public support was significant.
Israel accuses the Palestinians of trying to circumvent the negotiating process by seeking UN recognition. Although the vote did not change the situation on the ground, the international community endorsed the Palestinian position on future borders with Israel. Israel refuses to return to its pre-1967 lines.
Israel has responded to the Palestinians’ UN move by cutting off a regularly scheduled $100 million tax transfer to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, and announced plans to build thousands of new settler homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
The settlement plans have sparked widespread international criticism, and prompted the Palestinians to file a complaint at the United Nations. But Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has refused to back down.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.