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Netanyahu meets King Abdullah, Kerry in Jordan

PM to reportedly emphasize that Israel has no intention of changing Temple Mount status quo; US envoy to stress that settlement announcements unhelpful

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Jordanian King Abdullah II in Amman, November 13, 2014 (screen capture: Channel 2)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with US Secretary of State John Kerry and Jordanian King Abdullah II in Amman, November 13, 2014 (screen capture: Channel 2)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Thursday evening in the Jordanian capital of Amman with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the recent surge of violence in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu is set to convey the message — one he’s said on numerous occasions over the past few weeks — that Israel has no intention to change the status quo on the Temple Mount, Channel 2 reported.

The site — the holiest in Judaism, and the third-holiest in Islam — has been a source of increased tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, tensions which have led to a number of violent clashes between security forces and Palestinian demonstrators, four terror attacks and an attempted assassination of a Temple Mount activist in just under a month.

Jews are allowed to visit but forbidden from praying at the contested site, which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war, but where it allowed the Muslim Waqf authorities to remain in administrative charge.

Abdullah is set to tell Netanyahu and Kerry that Jordan wants to see a new process that would lead to the renewal of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, which broke down in April.

According to the Channel 2 report, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who met with Kerry earlier in the day and with Abdullah on Wednesday, was leaving it to the Jordanian king to convey the messages to the Israeli prime minister and the US’s top diplomat.

For his part, Kerry was expected to express the Obama administration’s disapproval with the Israeli announcement Wednesday that authorities gave preliminary approval for the construction of 200 new homes in Ramot, a Jewish area of East Jerusalem.

Earlier Thursday, US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the meeting “will focus on ways to restore calm and de-escalate tension in Jerusalem.” The three officials will also attempt to lay the groundwork for a possible restarting of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, Israel Radio reported.

Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said the meeting would be an opportunity to “work together” to restore calm, and that the very fact that the meeting was announced publicly was a constructive part of the process.

The summit in Amman commenced at 7:00 p.m., only hours after fresh clashes broke out in East Jerusalem, where Israeli police fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse Palestinian demonstrators, who hurled stones and other objects at security forces in the city.

Earlier Thursday, Kerry met with Abbas for talks aimed at calming tensions in the region.

Kerry and a somber-looking Abbas embraced and had a brief whispered exchange as they met at the Palestinian leader’s hillside home in Amman, where US and Palestinian flags hung in front of a large nighttime photo of Jerusalem’s flashpoint al-Aqsa Mosque, on the Temple Mount.

US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at his residence in Amman on November 13, 2014 (Photo credit: AFP/POOL/Nicholas Kamm)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at his residence in Amman on November 13, 2014 (Photo credit: AFP/POOL/Nicholas Kamm)

Ahead of Kerry’s arrival, Abdullah met Abbas in Amman for talks in which he expressed his “total rejection” of Israel’s “repeated aggressions and provocations in Jerusalem,” a palace statement said.

Much of the unrest in Jerusalem has been fueled by settlement activity in the city’s eastern sector and by religious tensions at the Temple Mount compound. Abbas on Tuesday warned that the Palestinians will not allow Israeli extremists to “contaminate” the Temple Mount, and said that allowing Jewish prayer at the site would risk a global religious war.

“Keep the settlers and the extremists away from Al-Aqsa and our holy places,” Abbas demanded. “We will not allow our holy places to be contaminated. Keep them away from us and we will stay away from them, but if they enter al-Aqsa, [we] will protect al-Aqsa and the church and the entire country,” he said. It was unclear what church Abbas was referring to.

Israeli security forces have chased rioters who fled into the al-Aqsa mosque on several occasions, but Israel denied a claim last week that troops went deep into the mosque. Israeli forces say the Palestinians store rocks, bottles and Molotov cocktails inside the mosque for use in violent protests.

Israeli security forces walk near Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock mosque in the Temple Mound, November 5, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/AHMAD GHARABLI)
Israeli security forces walk near Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock mosque in the Temple Mound, November 5, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/AHMAD GHARABLI)

Israel closed the Temple Mount for one day two weeks ago following the attempted assassination of Rabbi Yehudah Glick and the killing of his shooter during an arrest operation, a move that drew sharp condemnation from Palestinians, the Jordanian government and others.

Since the site opened again to Jewish visitors, several right-wing MKs have visited the site, contending that it is their democratic right to do so, despite a plea from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for calm and restraint.

Rabbi Yehudah Glick (Photo credit: Flash90)
Rabbi Yehudah Glick (Photo credit: Flash90)

On Wednesday, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said that he would work towards installing metal detectors at the entrances along with new facial-recognition technology.

“We’ll increase the supervision of people entering the compound, both Jews and Muslims,” he said.

Adiv Sterman, Marissa Newman, and AP contributed to this report.

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