Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly set to meet Jordan’s King Abdullah II over the next two days for further discussions on tensions surrounding the Temple Mount. The meeting will be the second one in less than a week, after the prime minister attended a trilateral summit Thursday in Amman with the Jordanian monarch and US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Jordanian parliament member Mohammed al-Katatshe told the Palestinian news agency Ma’an Saturday that Netanyahu will visit the Hashemite Kingdom to cement an agreement reached Thursday for steps to reduce tensions in Jerusalem, Israel Radio reported.
Following Thursday’s meeting, Kerry said Israel and Jordan, which has custodial rights at the Temple Mount, had agreed to take steps to “de-escalate the situation” in Jerusalem and to “restore confidence.”
Kerry stressed the United States had agreed that it would not lay out publicly the steps agreed to by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians to ease the tensions and violence.
Hours after Thursday’ summit, Israel announced that it would allow unrestricted access to the Temple Mount for Palestinian male and female worshipers of all ages for Friday prayers. Some 40,000 worshipers gathered and dispersed without incident, although there were demonstrations and protests outside Jerusalem, at Jerusalem-West Bank flash-points, and in several Israeli Arab towns. In previous weeks, Israel had limited access to the mount on Fridays to Muslim men under either 35 or 50, while not restricting Muslim women’s access.
The move came after weeks of unrest in Jerusalem and the West Bank, some of which has been focused on Israeli plans to step up building activity in the city’s eastern sector and by religious tensions at the Temple Mount. Palestinian leaders have used inflammatory language to warn against Israeli plans to change the status quo and allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount — something Israel has denied.
Six Israelis have been killed in Palestinian terrorist attacks in recent weeks.
The announcement on the easing of restrictions was welcomed as “a positive step” by the State Department later Friday.
“This is an important development, one we certainly welcome,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
It was “a positive step for maintaining the status quo of the site,” she said, adding, however, that there are currently no plans to resume peace talks between the two sides.
Netanyahu reaffirmed to Kerry when the two and Abdullah met in Amman that he would uphold a commitment not to change the status quo of Temple Mount site, which is holy to both Muslims and Jews.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who met separately with the secretary on Thursday, restated his pledge to “non-violence and made it clear that he will do everything possible to restore calm,” Psaki said.
She vowed the United States would remain engaged with the two sides, stressing “the situation is still very tense, we have our eyes open… actions by the parties going forward are the key to restoring and maintaining calm.”
While Psaki refused to divulge exactly what concrete steps each leader had agreed to take, she said Kerry’s separate talks had touched on “access to holy sites, security for holy sites, coordination among security forces.”
They also talked about “incitement and settlements.”
The proof of the two leaders’ seriousness would be in their actions over the coming days, Psaki added.