'Every life matters,' Abdullah II tells Israel's president

Hosting Herzog, Jordan’s king condemns ‘tragic attacks that target civilians’

Amid pre-Ramadan spate of Arab terror in Israel, Hashemite ruler warns Israel against restrictions on Muslim worshipers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

President Isaac Herzog (L) and Jordanian King Abdullah II at the Al Husseiniya Palace in Amman, Jordan, March 30, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog (L) and Jordanian King Abdullah II at the Al Husseiniya Palace in Amman, Jordan, March 30, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)

President Isaac Herzog met with King Abdullah II in Amman on Wednesday, where the Jordanian monarch condemned Tuesday’s terror attack in Bnei Brak.

The king decried “tragic attacks on civilians on both sides, and especially what happened last night.”

“Every life matters,” Abdullah told Herzog, who flew over from Jerusalem.

However, the Royal Court’s Arabic-language Twitter account was more circumspect, saying only that the king “condemns violence in all its forms.”

As Israel is buffeted by a wave of deadly terror attacks ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Abdullah warned Israeli authorities “any measures that might impede the ability of worshipers to reach Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

Last May, tensions in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood before Ramadan spiraled into the most recent Gaza conflict, which left 13 Israelis and hundreds of Palestinians dead, mostly Hamas terrorists, and saw deadly riots inside mixed Jewish-Arab Israeli cities.

President Isaac Herzog is received by an honor guard at the Al Husseiniya Palace in Amman, Jordan, March 30, 2022. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Abdullah also stressed the need “not to prejudice” the historical and legal situation in Jerusalem. Jordan has long maintained that its treaties with Israel grant it custodianship over Jerusalem’s Christian and Muslim holy sites; while Israel has never accepted this claim, it grants day-to-day administration of the Temple Mount to the Jordan-funded Waqf.

Herzog thanked Abdullah for his condemnation of the Bnei Brak attack.

“We must fight together against any type of terror and cooperate for the benefit of the security of our nations,” he said during their meeting, according to a statement from Herzog’s office.

“We share common values of prosperity and peace, based on our peace agreement,” Herzog said. “Together, we must now move forward, and we are offering an alternative.

“As against the horrible scenes of yesterday, we offer a different alternative of people-to-people dialogue, of respect, of speaking to each other, of showing the region that there could be a different way,” he said.

Herzog also alluded to concerns of escalating tensions during Ramadan, a key issue in recent talks between Israeli and Jordanian leaders.

“As we enter these holy days, for all three religions, with Easter, Passover, and of course Ramadan, we must move toward enabling everyone to practice their beliefs in safety, in security, in calm circumstances,” he said.

Ramadan is likely to begin this Saturday night, assuming the new moon appears.

After flying from Jerusalem, Herzog was received by an honor guard at the Al Husseiniya Palace in Amman, where Israeli flags were prominently displayed.

Herzog and Abdullah then held a private meeting, followed by a diplomatic meeting with both delegations.

Ties on the mend

Abdullah said in 2019 that relations were “at an all-time low” after a series of incidents that prompted Amman to recall its ambassador to Israel.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi (left) meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, on June 18, 2020 (Wafa news agency)

Things appeared to sink even lower in March 2021, when years of Jordanian frustration with then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu boiled over as officials in Amman appeared to accuse him of endangering regional security for political gain and alleged that Israel had violated agreements with them.

But ties with Amman have been improving under the Bennett-Lapid government

In July 2021, Abdullah called Herzog to congratulate him on becoming Israel’s new president.

Earlier that month Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with the Jordanian king in secret at the crown palace in Amman, in the first summit between the countries’ leaders in over three years.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, meanwhile, met with his Jordanian counterpart, Ayman Safadi, on the Jordanian side of the Allenby Bridge crossing. The two announced a deal for Israel to supply Jordan with 50 million cubic meters (65 million cubic yards) of water as it battles a severe drought.

But there is still plenty of tension in the relationship.

In July 2021, the same week Abdullah met US President Joe Biden in Washington, Bennett said that both Jews and Muslims have “freedom of worship” on the Temple Mount, which would be a potentially explosive change after decades of Israel permitting Jews only to visit, but not pray, at the holy site.

Unnamed officials in Bennett’s office had to walk back his comments.

After meeting for the Negev Summit, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, left, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Morocco’s Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, and United Arab Emirates’ Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, talk while posing for a photograph Monday, March 28, 2022, in Sde Boker, Israel. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

This week, Safadi stayed away from the Negev Summit, where all the foreign ministers from Arab countries that recognize Israel — Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco — gathered with Lapid and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in southern Israel. Abdullah made a rare visit to the Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah at the same time.

Jordan wasn’t the only regional country with complex relations with Israel to condemn Tuesday’s attack in Bnei Brak. Turkey’s embassy in Israel condemned it as well, in a further sign of warming ties between the two nations.

“We are saddened that at least 5 people lost their lives in the terrorist attack carried out on the evening of 29 March in Bnei Brak. We condemn this terrorist attack,” the embassy said in a statement.

“We are concerned that these attacks, which have increased in recent days, will drag the region back into conflict ahead of the upcoming month of Ramadan and Passover Holiday,” the statement said.

Tal Schneider and Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report. 

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