Jordan’s King Abdullah II denounced Israel’s “unilateral policies” in Jerusalem and called for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in a speech delivered Sunday to Jordan’s parliament.
Saying Jerusalem was “watered by the blood and sacrifices of our martyrs,” and calling Israel’s operation in Gaza “vile,” Abdullah lashed out at the Israeli government and said Amman would work in the United Nations to advance the Palestinian cause.
“Jordan will continue to confront, through all available means, Israeli unilateral policies and measures in Jerusalem and preserve its Muslim and Christian holy sites, until peace is restored to the land of peace,” he said.
Abdullah has been vocal in his criticism of Israeli policies in East Jerusalem over the past several weeks, including reported remarks to Jordanian MPs in which he appeared to equate Israel to the Islamic State jihadist organization.
He has also reportedly been working to ensure that the Israeli Knesset does not pass a law that would allow Jews to pray at the Temple Mount.
The tensions over the site, the holiest in Judaism and known as Haram al-Sharif to Muslims, have come against the backdrop of near daily riots in some East Jerusalem flashpoint neighborhoods, controversial Israeli plans to build in Jewish neighborhoods, and calls by Palestinian officials to “defend” the site against visits by Jewish Israelis.
Jordan said it was instrumental in getting the Temple Mount reopened after Israeli officials closed the site to both Jewish and Muslim worshipers on Thursday in a bid to calm tensions after the shooting of an activist who lobbied for Jewish rights on the site.
The move drew condemnation from Palestinians and others, and the site was opened to some Muslim worshipers on Friday, and on Sunday, Jewish visitors, who are barred from praying there, were also allowed on the mount.
Abdullah also addressed slow but ongoing efforts to reconstruct the Gaza Strip after a 50-day war between Israel and Hamas left large portions of the coastal enclave’s population homeless and without running water.
“We will continue to mobilize international support to rebuild Gaza, following the vile Israeli aggression, which killed thousands of our brethren Palestinians and destroyed their livelihoods,” he said.
“In order for such an aggression not to repeat itself again, final status negotiations must be resumed, leading to a permanent peace on the basis of a two-state solution according to international terms of reference and the Arab Peace Initiative, allowing Palestinians to establish their independent state on their national soil with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
Turning his attention to regional turmoil, Abdullah condemned jihadist groups murdering in the name of Islam, saying Jordan must defend itself.
“The war on these terrorist organizations and their radical ideology is our war because we are targeted and we must defend ourselves, Islam, and the values of tolerance and moderation by fighting extremism and terrorists,” he said. “Everyone who supports this extremist takfiri ideology or tries to justify it is an enemy of Islam, the homeland and all noble human values.”
As the Islamic State and other jihadist groups have taken control of large swaths of neighboring Syria and Iraq, Jordan has been securing its borders and taking stiff measures to fight extremism internally.
In September, Jordan said it arrested 11 members of the Islamic State group suspected of plotting terrorist attacks inside the Hashemite Kingdom. A security source said the suspects were planning to harm high-value interests in the country and admitted to the charges against them, Israel Radio reported.
Jordan also threw its support behind a US-led coalition that has been carrying out airstrikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria in Iraq, although it has not contributed any of its fighting force.
Meanwhile, despite Abdullah’s increased rhetoric against Israeli policies in East Jerusalem, Jordan has also recently solidified ties with Israel, with which it has peace treaty, agreeing to a $15 billion deal with Delek Group Ltd. and Nobel Energy Inc. to receive natural gas from Israel’s Leviathan energy field over the next 15 years.
The summer’s deal came after several tumultuous years that have seen the natural gas supply between Egypt and Jordan frequently halted due to political overturn in Egypt and sabotage by militant groups in the Sinai Peninsula.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.