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Jordan’s king: Israel ‘blatantly’ changing Jerusalem status quo

In interview, Abdullah also argues that Palestinian-Israeli conflict feeds extremism in the region

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Jordanian King Abdullah II reviews Kosovo's Security Force honor guard during a welcoming ceremony as part of Abdullah's official visit to Kosovo in Pristina on November 17, 2015. (AFP/Armend Nimani)
Jordanian King Abdullah II reviews Kosovo's Security Force honor guard during a welcoming ceremony as part of Abdullah's official visit to Kosovo in Pristina on November 17, 2015. (AFP/Armend Nimani)

The Jordanian king accused Israel on Monday of “blatantly” changing the status quo at important landmarks and heritage sites in Jerusalem, and restricting the rights of the capital’s Arab residents. He also charged that the perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict fuels extremism in the region.

In an interview with the Jordanian newspaper al-Dastur that focused mainly on upcoming parliamentary elections, the Islamic State group and the economic burden posed by Syrian refugees, Abdullah II was also asked what tools his country had to wield against “Israeli violations” in Jerusalem and its holy sites.

“We are continuously dealing with these recurring violations and attacks carried out by Israel and extremist groups, and the blatant attempts to change the status quo in Jerusalem, at its landmarks, its heritage sites and historical identity,” the king responded.

Israeli security forces clash with Palestinian protesters on the Temple Mount after Friday prayers on Feb. 22 (photo credit: Sliman Khader/Flash90)
Israeli security forces clash with Palestinian protesters on the Temple Mount after Friday prayers on Feb. 22 (Sliman Khader/Flash90)

He added that his nation is also working to counter Israeli “violations of the rights of Arab residents, a crackdown against them and their displacement.”

The king did not specify the Al Aqsa Mosque when addressing alleged Israeli attempts to change the status quo at the sensitive holy place. The Palestinians have accused Israel of trying to take over the site, a charge Israel has repeatedly and vehemently denied.

However, Abdullah did say his country would continue its “historical and religious” duty at the Temple Mount — known as the Haram al Sharif by Muslims — by defending it from what he called “repeated stormings” by extremist Jews, and by opposing attempts “to divide the al Aqsa Mosque temporally or spatially.”

Visits by right-wing religious Jews, some of whom support the changing of the status quo at the holy site by allowing Jewish prayer there, are seen as “stormings” of the Mount by Palestinians, and have resulted in frequent clashes and violence.

Israeli security forces stand guard as a group of Jewish men end their visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, during the annual Tisha B'Av fast day on August 14, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/AHMAD GHARABLI)
Israeli security forces stand guard as a group of Jewish men end their visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, during the annual Tisha B’Av fast day on August 14, 2016. (AFP PHOTO/AHMAD GHARABLI)

The monarch said his country would use all legal and political means to pressure Israel on the Jerusalem issue, including United Nations resolutions.

The Jordanian leader was also asked if he thought the opportunity for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had passed, especially as “stormy conditions” in the region have diverted attention from the conflict in the Holy Land.

While he didn’t indicate he thought the two-state solution was dead, Abdullah called the Palestinian issue his nation’s top priority and the conflict’s resolution a matter of “supreme national interest.”

Failure to resolve the conflict through a two-state solution “is feeding violence and extremism in the region,” the king said.

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