WASHINGTON — After dashing to Israel to defuse tensions surrounding the Temple Mount, a top White House envoy jetted to Amman on Monday evening for “additional discussions” regarding an escalating diplomatic imbroglio.
Special envoy Jason Greenblatt arrived in Israel in the afternoon, a senior administration official said, and then had meetings with US Ambassador to the United States David Friedman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
After those meetings, “Mr. Greenblatt is traveling to Amman, Jordan for additional discussions,” the official said. There was no indication whether or not Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would be part of those talks.
The crisis erupted early last week, after Israel installed metal detectors to the entrances of al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City. The decision to install them came after three Arab Israelis shot dead two Israeli police officers just outside the compound on July 14 with guns they had smuggled into the site.
That decision triggered widespread protests throughout East Jerusalem and the West Bank, with Abbas announcing Friday that his government would “freeze contact on all levels” with Israel until the metal detectors were removed. Five Palestinians were killed in clashes Friday and Saturday.
On Friday night, a Palestinian terrorist stabbed to death three members of the Salomon family at the Sabbath dinner table at the Halamish settlement in the West Bank.
Israel’s security cabinet discussed during emergency meetings Sunday and Monday ways to reduce tensions surrounding the holy site, which included a review of the continued use of the metal detectors. But no definitive decision was announced.
Exacerbating the crisis, on Sunday afternoon a Jordanian man stabbed and lightly wounded an Israeli security officer at the Israeli embassy in Amman before the officer shot him dead along with a second Jordanian man.
Some reports in Jordan described the incident as a domestic dispute, but Israeli reports have indicated Jerusalem suspected the attack to have been motivated by animus over the situation on the Temple Mount.
Jordanian authorities want to interrogate the embassy guard about the incident, while Israel is refusing to hand him over. The Israeli guard, who was injured during the attack, enjoys diplomatic immunity according to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and is safe from arrest and investigation, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday morning.
Greenblatt, who has been one of Trump’s point men in his attempt to broker an Israeli-Palestinian accord, was dispatched by Trump on Sunday night, after days of silence from the administration, to “support efforts to reduce tensions in the region.”
A White House official said he would be “closely coordinating” with Trump’s son-in-law and special adviser Jared Kushner, the National Security Council, the State Department and US envoy Friedman.
“President Trump and his administration are closely following unfolding events in the region,” the senior administration official said.
Kushner has been leading administration efforts to calm the crisis, CNN reported on Sunday, quoting a US official saying Kushner was in contact with the Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians.