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Netanyahu flies to Jordan for surprise meeting with king

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JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a surprise trip to Jordan on Tuesday to meet with King Abdullah II, his first visit since he took power as head of Israel’s most right-wing and conservative government on the planet. religious plane of history.

The rare meeting between the leaders, who have a long and rocky relationship, comes as friction grows between neighbors over Israel’s new ultra-nationalist government, which took office late last year. The talks focused on the status of a disputed holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City, sacred to Jews and Muslims, Jordan’s official statement suggested.

Jordan’s royal court said the king had urged Israel to respect the status quo at the holy compound, which Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary and Jews call the Temple Mount.

Under an arrangement that prevailed for decades under Jordanian tutelage, Jews and non-Muslims are allowed to visit at certain times but cannot pray there. Religious nationalists, including members of Israel’s new ruling coalition, have increasingly visited the site and demanded equal prayer rights for Jews there, infuriating Palestinians and Muslims around the world.

The complex – the third holiest site in Islam – sits on a vast plateau also home to the iconic golden Dome of the Rock.

At Tuesday’s meeting, King Abdullah II also urged Israel to “stop its acts of violence” which undermine hopes for a possible peaceful resolution to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Jordanian government added. reaffirming its support for a two-state solution. Israel’s new coalition has pledged to expand Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and even annex the territory – which would make a future independent Palestinian state unviable.

Netanyahu’s office said he discussed “regional issues” and security and economic cooperation with Jordan, a key regional ally. Jordan’s 1994 treaty normalizing relations with Israel produced a frosty peace between the countries at best. Netanyahu has repeatedly assured that there has been no change in the status quo on the site.

The Jordanian government has already summoned Israel’s ambassador to Amman twice in the past month since Israel’s new government took office – both times after an incident at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Earlier this month, Israel’s new national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, paid a provocative visit to the site, drawing condemnation from Jordan and the Arab world. Jordan also protested to Israel after Israeli police briefly blocked the Jordanian ambassador from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque, decrying the move as an unusual affront to Jordan’s role as gatekeeper.

The compound is administered by Jordanian religious authorities under an unofficial agreement after Israel captured East Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza, in the 1967 Middle East war. Israel is responsible for security on site. Due to Jordan’s role and the importance of the site to Muslims around the world, everything that happens at the site has regional implications.

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