Lapid meets Jordan king on West Bank terror as news of fresh attack arrives

Prime minister reportedly learns killing of octogenarian is suspected terror while meeting Abdullah on UN sidelines; monarch says security will come with 2-state solution

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Prime Minister Yair Lapid, left, meets Jordan's King Abdullah II in New York, September 20, 2022. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)
Prime Minister Yair Lapid, left, meets Jordan's King Abdullah II in New York, September 20, 2022. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

NEW YORK — As Prime Minister Yair Lapid met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II to discuss escalating violence emanating from the West Bank Tuesday, the two received an unfortunate reminder of the urgency of efforts to calm tensions.

Half the world away, in the Tel Aviv suburb of Holon, an 84-year-old woman had been walking down the street when she was beaten to death with a blunt object.

As Lapid and Abdullah met, The Times of Israel has learned, the Israeli premier received word that authorities investigating the killing suspected it had been a terror attack, with a manhunt underway for a Palestinian thought to be responsible for the attack.

“Israel will not stand by, and will fight all forms of terror directed at Israel, and will not allow harm to the security of its citizens,” Lapid told Abdullah during the meeting, according to a readout from Lapid’s office.

The meeting, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, came against the backdrop of what Israeli officials have described as an uptick in Palestinian terror activity. The potential for further attacks is especially high with the Jewish High Holidays beginning next week, authorities have warned.

Abdullah told Lapid that achieving security and stability was tied to creating a political horizon for the Palestinians on the basis of a two-state solution.

“The King reiterated the importance of granting the Palestinians their just and legitimate rights, and including them in regional economic development,” a statement carried by Jordan’s official news service read.

Following the meeting, Lapid’s office said he had been updated by his military secretary Avi Gil on the Holon attack and on efforts to catch the suspect, identified by authorities as Mousa Sarsour, a 28-year-old Palestinian from Qalqilya.

“We will act with a heavy hand against terror,” Lapid said through a spokesperson. “We will catch the perpetrator and those who sent him.”

Left: The scene of the murder of an 84-year-old woman in Holon, September 20, 2022. (Magen David Adom); Right: The suspect in the attack, named by police as Mousa Sarsour of Qalqilya (Israel Police)

The two leaders also discussed expanding economic cooperation in their first meeting since they sat down in Amman in July.

Israel’s ties with its eastern neighbor, seen as crucial to stability in the West Bank and Jerusalem, underwent a period of rehabilitation after tense years during the Benjamin Netanyahu premierships. But in recent months, the relationship has frayed amid public Jordanian criticism of Israel.

Underlining lingering tensions between the neighbors, though, Abdullah warned in his address to the United Nations General Assembly against “undermining” the status quo in Jerusalem. The speech came shortly before his meeting with Lapid.

Jordan sees itself as the custodian of Jerusalem’s Muslim and Christian holy sites, including the Temple Mount complex which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a focal point of tensions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel rejects this assertion, recognizing only the Hashemite kingdom’s unique role on the Temple Mount.

“The future of Jerusalem is an urgent concern,” said the monarch. “The city is holy to billions of Muslims, Christians and Jews around the world. Undermining Jerusalem’s legal and historical status quo triggers global tensions and deepens religious divides.”

People hold Hamas flags as Palestinians gather at the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, May 7, 2021. (Jamal Awad/Flash90)

He also claimed Christians were “under fire” in Jerusalem, an assertion echoed recently by Christian leaders and firmly denied by the Foreign Ministry.

Lapid also met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the first meeting between an Israeli prime minister and the Turkish leader since 2008, amid rapidly improving ties.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid, left, meets Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan in New York, September 20, 2022. (Avi Ohayon/GPO)

The two leaders discussed combatting terrorism in Israel and beyond. The premier again thanked Erdogan for Turkey’s cooperation in stymying Iranian attempts to harm Israeli tourists in Turkey in June, according to Lapid’s office.

Lapid is slated to meet with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis later Tuesday.

He will meet with new UK Prime Minister Liz Truss on Wednesday afternoon, amid a push to convince Europe and the US to back away from a nascent nuclear deal with Iran.

He will also sit down with American communal Jewish leaders and will participate in the annual gala of Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, an organization that supports troops’ welfare, on Tuesday night.

Luke Tress and JTA contributed to this report. 

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