Rivlin meets Jordanians, discusses developing Christian sites to ‘build bridges’
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Rivlin meets Jordanians, discusses developing Christian sites to ‘build bridges’

Week after King Abdullah II says relations at all-time low, president sits in London with monarch’s chief religious adviser to discuss pilgrimage sites along Jordan River

President Reuven Rivlin speaks during the Climate Conference in Tel Aviv on November 24, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
President Reuven Rivlin speaks during the Climate Conference in Tel Aviv on November 24, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

President Reuven Rivlin met with Jordanian officials in London to discuss the development of Christian holy sites along the Jordan River, which flows along the border between the two countries, it was announced Thursday.

Rivlin sat with Prince Ghazi bin Mohammed, chief adviser for Religious and Cultural Affairs and personal envoy to King Abdullah II of Jordan, along with other Jordanian officials, for a meeting on Wednesday held “in the spirit of open and productive dialog,” the President’s Residence said in a statement.

“The two sides look forward to continued dialog on the issue,” read the statement.

“A number of issues were discussed, at the top being the development of the Baptismal site and the progress of the Land of the Monasteries initiative,” the statement on behalf of Rivlin said. “Promoting and developing the site would be a significant element in building bridges between peoples and religions.”

Screen capture from video of Prince Ghazi bin Mohammed, chief adviser for Religious and Cultural Affairs and Personal Envoy to King Abdullah II of Jordan. (YouTube)

Last week Abdullah said that relations between Jordan and Israel, which signed a landmark peace treaty 25 years ago, were at their worst point ever.

Rivlin has pushed the initiative to develop the location where according to Christianity John the Baptist baptized Jesus and his followers, which involves restoring Christian holy sites along the river as well as developing access for visiting pilgrims.

Preparing the areas includes clearing away an estimated 6,500 landmines and booby traps that line the holy site, which was formerly a war zone.

The Franciscan Chapel in the “Land of Monasteries” near the site of Qasr al Yahud, the place where Jesus is believed to have been baptized. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

On Monday a Jordanian diplomat revealed that Jordan’s ambassador to Israel, Ghassan Majali, had returned to Tel Aviv earlier in the month, several weeks after being recalled by Amman to protest Israel’s detainment of two Jordanian nationals suspected of ties to terror groups.

Israel held Heba al-Labadi, 32, and Abdel Rahman Miri, 29, for approximately two months without charge, but released them to Jordan in early November as part of a deal to restore the ambassador.

While security ties between Israel and Jordan have flourished, political relations have soured recently over a number of matters including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge in September to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, if he is given another term in office.

In addition to the recalling of Majali, Jordan terminated annexes in the peace treaty between Amman and Jerusalem that allowed Israeli farmers, their employees and others to easily access two plots of land inside Jordan.

Jordan has long supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which would include the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab states that have formal peace treaties and diplomatic relations with Israel.

President Reuven Rivlin meets with UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis in London, November 27, 2019. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

Rivlin was in London on a working visit which included meeting on Wednesday with UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis. The president expressed his support for Mirvis days after the British religious leader took an unprecedented stand against anti-Semitism in the UK Labour party and sparked a fresh outcry against the party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Mirvis in a Monday column in The Times urged voters to see the “new poison” of anti-Semitism that has taken root in the main opposition party, and expressed fear for the fate of Jews in the country should Corbyn become prime minister.

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