Ronen Bar, the head of the Shin Bet security service, met last week in Ramallah with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, The Times of Israel has learned.
The meeting came amid efforts to restore calm amid days of violent protests and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. As Ramadan and Passover overlapped, tensions at the flashpoint site spiked. Palestinians accused Israel of violating the status quo there, while Israel said it was forced to enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to quell planned riots and rock throwing by Palestinians.
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. The current status quo at the site, which is administered by Jordan’s Waqf, allows Jews to visit at certain times but not to pray, while Muslims are allowed greater access and prayer.
Israel’s response to the violence garnered a sharp rebuke from several of its Arab allies, including Jordan. On Wednesday, Abbas met in Amman with Jordanian King Abdullah to discuss the Jerusalem tensions.
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.
More than 100,000 Muslim worshipers took part in peaceful mass prayers on the Temple Mount Wednesday evening on one of the few remaining nights before the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on May 1.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held a security assessment Wednesday evening over fears of an escalation, in particular on Friday, marking the final Friday prayers of Ramadan. Next week will also mark both Eid al-Fitr and Israel’s Independence Day, potential flashpoints for clashes.
Also Wednesday, Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai held a security assessment with Jerusalem police officials.
Since the Bennett-led government was sworn into office close to a year ago, Abbas has held a series of meetings with senior Israeli officials, marking a sharp change from relations under Bennett’s predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu.
Bar met with Abbas in Ramallah in November 2021, shortly after taking over as head of the domestic security service. Abbas has also met twice with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, as well as with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and
Bennett has repeatedly stated that he has no intention of meeting Abbas, since he believes such a sit-down would have no value, but he has not prevented cabinet ministers and other officials from doing so.