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Jordan’s King Abdullah to visit Ramallah to lower tensions ahead of Ramadan

Palestinian official says visit will highlight need for diplomatic horizon, without which further escalation in Jerusalem will be more likely

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

Jordan's King Abdullah II and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas observe the honor guard during a visit in the West Bank city of Ramallah on August 7, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)
Jordan's King Abdullah II and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas observe the honor guard during a visit in the West Bank city of Ramallah on August 7, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI)

Jordan’s King Abdullah will visit Ramallah later this month for the first time in nearly five years as Amman intensifies its efforts to lower tensions between Israelis and Palestinians with a confluence of religious holidays on the horizon, a Palestinian official told The Times of Israel on Monday.

Confirming reporting from the Kan public broadcaster, the official said that the meeting will stress the importance of creating a diplomatic horizon between Israel and the Palestinians, “without which it is much harder to control the situation on the ground.”

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been moribund for over a decade. In addition, Ramallah has been increasingly frustrated with the Biden administration’s positioning on the conflict.

While Washington has renewed diplomatic ties with the Palestinian Authority and restored hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, along with the traditional US stance in support of a two-state solution, it has largely accepted the Israeli position that the sides are not ripe for high-stakes peace talks.

Facing an ever-intensifying economic crisis, the PA worries that a failure to present the Palestinian people with a diplomatic horizon will further strengthen Hamas, the official said, adding that Abdullah’s visit should also be seen as a message to the Biden administration that “the region does not want to ignore our issue.”

Amman has yet to comment on the visit and appears most concerned with lowering tensions ahead of April, which will see the confluence of Ramadan, Passover, and Easter.

This concern was at the top of the agenda when Abdullah hosted Foreign Minister Yair Lapid last week in Amman.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid meets with Jordan’s King Abdullah in Amman, on March 10, 2022. (Courtesy)

“We agreed that we must work together to calm tensions and promote understanding, particularly in the lead-up to the month of Ramadan and Passover,” Lapid said in a statement after the meeting at the Al Husseiniya Palace.

Recent weeks have seen an uptick in violence in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, including several stabbing attacks by Palestinians targeting Israeli security forces, as well as several Palestinians shot dead by Israeli troops, some during violent clashes.

The readout from the Royal Hashemite Court reiterated Jordan’s regular talking points on the conflict, saying the king “reaffirm[ed] the need to step up efforts to achieve just and comprehensive peace on the basis of the two-state solution that guarantees the establishment of an independent, sovereign, and viable Palestinian state, on the 4 June 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Abdullah also called for the preservation of the status quo at the Temple Mount/al-Aqsa Mosque compound, where Jordan serves as custodian. He also called on Israel to cease “unilateral action that undermines the two-state solution,” ostensibly referring to settlement building.

Lapid met earlier this month with senior Palestinian Authority official Hussein al-Sheikh, in the second such public meeting in less than two months.

The confluence of religious holidays has been a point of concern for the Biden administration as well, with US and Israeli officials telling The Times of Israel last month that Washington has asked Jerusalem to take steps to lower tensions and prevent an outbreak of violence similar to what occurred last May when Israel fought an 11-day war with Hamas in Gaza.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will also be in the region next week and is reportedly slated to make stops in Israel and the West Bank, leading some analysts to speculate whether he will take part in the Abbas-Abdullah meeting in Ramallah.

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