King Abdullah II’s meeting with American Jewish leaders in Amman Tuesday yielded dueling reports from the Jordanian press and those who attended the session.
Abdullah met with representatives of the New York-based Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations — a central coordinating body for American Jewry, representing 52 national Jewish agencies.
Jordan’s state-run Petra News Agency claimed Abdullah used the meeting to blame Israel for the failure of negotiations with the Palestinians, and was specifically concerned over Israel’s “unilateral policies.”
But the king’s guests offered a more optimistic version of events, saying Abdullah had also been complimentary of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position in recent peace talks.
Jordan last month played host to talks that have subsequently been broken off. Palestinian and Israeli negotiators have blamed the other for the cut-off.
Abdullah listed changing the identity of the traditionally Arab sector in East Jerusalem and tampering with Muslim holy shrines there as policies Israel had taken unilaterally, according to the Petra report.
Abdullah further warned that failure to realize a Mideast settlement would exacerbate tensions in a region engulfed by uprisings that have unseated four Arab leaders, Petra reported.
Members of the Jewish delegation that met with with King Abdullah painted a totally different picture, though.
Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said that the Petra report did not reflect “the totality of the message that we were given, which was much more positive and hopeful about the negotiations.”
King Abdullah actually praised Netanyahu, Hoenlein told The Times of Israel Tuesday night after his return from Amman.
“He lauded the steps the prime minister took to try and create an atmosphere in which negotiations could go forward, specifically the package that he offered the Palestinians in order to make the peace talks possible,” Hoenlein said.
Contrary to the Petra report, Abdullah did not hold Israel responsible for the failure of preliminary peace talks in Amman, Hoenlein asserted.
“He did not blame Israel [for the breakup of the peace talks last month in Amman]. He did express the hope that there would not be some kind of impediment or unilateral actions that would impede the negotiations. But he specifically had kind words for the role of the prime minister,” Hoenlein said.
The Jordanian king did raise concerns, however, about “any kind of unilateral moves, specifically about Jerusalem, that could impede the talks,” Hoenlein added.
Earlier in the day, a Conference official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, reported that “the king spoke candidly about the situation in Syria … and his relationship with Netanyahu and Israel in general.”
“The king spent a lot of meaningful time with us,” said Martin Oliner, the chairman of the Religious Zionists of America, as he crossed the border into Israel Tuesday afternoon. The leaders spoke with King Abdullah for about 40 minutes and with Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh for about half an hour, he added. “We were given a very warm and gracious welcome by everybody we met.”
The delegation expressed appreciation to the king for “the role he is playing in trying to bring the Palestinians to direct negotiations” with Israel, Hoenlein said.