Jordanian monarch Abdullah II met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman on Wednesday night as the holy month of Ramadan, marked by high tensions at Jerusalem holy sites, draws to a close.
The two leaders discussed rising tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, which they deemed an “Israeli escalation.” They also discussed “ways to defend Jerusalem and the Islamic and Christian holy sites,” according to Abbas’s office.
Abdullah called on the international community “to restore calm in the Holy City, and to prevent the recurring attacks against Islamic and Christian holy sites and the people there,” the Jordanian Royal Court said.
The past month has seen high tensions in Jerusalem as Jews, Christians, and Muslims celebrated major festivals side-by-side. The unusual convergence was preceded by a wave of terror attacks in Israeli cities that left 14 dead.
Israeli police clashed with hundreds of Palestinian rioters at the Al-Aqsa Mosque holy site after prayers. The compound, known as the Noble Sanctuary, is the third holiest site in Islam. Jews consider it the holiest site in Judaism, referring to it as the Temple Mount.
Israel also imposed tight restrictions on Christian pilgrims attending Holy Saturday prayers in Jerusalem. Authorities justified the new rules as necessary to avoid potentially fatal overcrowding, while Christians slammed what they called a violation of their freedom of worship.
Abdullah told the Palestinian delegation on Wednesday that he intended to continue diplomatic efforts “in order to end the aggression against Jerusalem and the holy sites.”
“Jordan has intensified its coordination with all regional and international partners to stop the escalation following the attacks on the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque. The repression of worshipers in Jerusalem, restricting the movement of Christians and impacting their religious celebrations are an unacceptable matter,” the Jordanian Royal Court said.
Neighboring Arab and Muslim states, including the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Turkey, blamed Israel for the Jerusalem tensions. Israel’s envoys to Amman and Abu Dhabi were rebuked by their host countries after police entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque to quash Palestinian riots.
Jordan’s Abdullah met Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh el-Sissi and United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Cairo on Sunday to discuss the Jerusalem violence.
All three stressed “their countries’ readiness to exert all efforts to restore calm in Jerusalem, end all forms of escalation, and remove obstacles impeding worshipers’ access.”
Jordan considers itself the custodian of Jerusalem’s Muslim and Christian holy sites, although Israel has never recognized this status.
The Waqf, a Jordanian religious body, administers the Al-Aqsa Mosque in a fragile agreement that has been the status quo for decades. Under the status quo, non-Muslims can visit the sacred hilltop at designated hours, but they may not worship.
Israel has been repeatedly accused of seeking to change the status quo at the holy site and allow more Jewish worship. Israeli officials have emphasized that they are committed to the fragile status quo.
“Israel is committed to the status quo on the Temple Mount,” Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told reporters in a briefing to foreign journalists at his Jerusalem ministry on Sunday afternoon. “Muslims pray on the Temple Mount, non-Muslims only visit. There is no change, there will be no change.”
But more and more religious Jewish Israelis have patronized the hilltop in recent years, and footage has emerged of Israeli police turning a blind eye to their prayer services there. The scenes have strained Israel’s ties with the Palestinians and neighboring Arab states.
Abdullah has condemned Israel for the clashes, slamming the presence of Jewish pilgrims at the site and calling on the Israeli government to respect “the historical and legal status quo” there, according to a statement from the Royal Hashemite Court.
Jordan’s prime minister Bisher al-Khasawneh hailed Palestinian rioters and used remarkably hostile language to condemn “Zionist sympathizers” and what he called Israel’s “occupation government.”
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, in turn, said he viewed “with utmost severity” comments blaming Israel for the violence and lashed out against “those who are encouraging rock-throwing and the use of violence against the citizens of the State of Israel.”
“The State of Israel will continue to provide for and safeguard the dignity of all of us, to enable everyone to celebrate in Jerusalem,” Bennett said earlier this month.