Public Security Minister Omer Barlev recently met in secret with Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi to discuss efforts to keep the calm in Jerusalem during the Muslim month of Ramadan, according to reports Tuesday.
Reports in Kan, Walla news and other outlets said the two ministers met last week, prior to the deadly terror attack in Beersheba, in which four people were murdered by a knife-wielding assailant.
Barlev’s ministry oversees internal security, and chiefly the police.
The Jordanian side asked to ease security restrictions in Jerusalem and the Temple Mount during the holy period, in order to facilitate worship and prevent escalation, the reports said. One of the requests was to increase the number of Waqf religious custodians at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, to which Barlev was said to have agreed — on the condition that certain individuals considered to be extreme would be kept out.
But officials are particularly concerned about Jerusalem on Ramadan, where religious tensions have often boiled over into violence.
Last spring saw events in Jerusalem surrounding the Temple Mount and looming evictions of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood snowball into an 11-day war between Israel and terror groups in the Gaza Strip, as well as significant Jewish-Arab violence in mixed cities.
Fearing a recurrence of that May 2021 violence, the Biden administration has urged Israel to take preemptive actions in order to prevent a similar eruption in April, which will see a confluence of the Jewish holiday of Passover, Ramadan, and the Christian holiday of Easter.
On Monday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian King Abdullah II met in Ramallah during a rare visit by the Jordanian monarch, as part of efforts to relieve tensions.
In Ramallah, Abdullah told Abbas that the Jordanians are there to “listen to you and hear from you what is demanded of the Jordanians.” The monarch further described Jordan, many of whose citizens are descendants of Palestinian refugees, as “the closest” to the Palestinian cause.
He added that both the Israeli and Palestinian sides must cease “unilateral measures” that threaten peace.
“All unilateral measures, especially those in Jerusalem and the Noble Sanctuary, must stop,” Abdullah said, referring to the Temple Mount holy site, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Jordan has long claimed a special custodial role in Jerusalem. A Jordanian-backed religious body, the Waqf, administers the Al-Aqsa compound.
Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.