Jordan's King Abdullah cautions new Israeli government about testing 'red lines'

Kingdom is open to co-operating with Benjamin Netanyahu's government if it promotes peace

Bejamin Netanyahu will lead the new far-right government in Israel. Reuters
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Jordan’s King Abdullah II has warned Israel's new far-right government against increasing pressure on Palestinians in Jerusalem or undermining the kingdom’s influence in the city.

But he left the possibility open for Jordan to work with the new government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu and due to be sworn in on Thursday, if it promotes peace and regional economic projects.

The king said Jordan would respond if Israel moved to alter the situation in Jerusalem, including Jordan’s custodianship of holy places there.

“If people want to get into a conflict with us, we are quite prepared for that,” King Abdullah told CNN on Wednesday.

“I always like to think, let us look at the glass half full, but we have certain red lines. If people want to push those red lines, then we will deal with that.”

Jordan says it has custodianship of Al Aqsa Mosque and other holy places in Jerusalem. The kingdom's role dates to the 1920s.

A large proportion of Jordan's 10 million population are of Palestinian origin.

The 1994 peace treaty between Jordan and Israel says the country respects a “special role” for Jordan in Muslim sites in Jerusalem, but does not directly endorse the kingdom’s claims of custodianship.

Mr Netanyahu’s election in November and the inclusion of far-right politicians in his coalition cabinet have stoked fears of a repeat of the violence in occupied Palestinian territories and Israel last year.

Far-right politician Itamar Ben-Gvir is to become Israel's new public security minister. Reuters

The unrest was caused by Israeli incursions into Al Aqsa Mosque complex and the East Jerusalem district of Sheikh Jarrah, escalating to a war between militant groups in Gaza and the Israeli military.

This year has been the worst for violence since 2015.

Mr Netanyahu's Likud party said on Wednesday that the status quo in Jerusalem and other holy sites would be maintained, but pledged to expand settlements in the occupied West Bank.

King Abdullah also expressed concerns about the inclusion in the Israeli cabinet of Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is to become the public security minister.

He has frequently spoken in incendiary terms about the Palestinians.

“I have to believe that there’s a lot of people in Israel also who are concerned as much as we are,” King Abdullah said.

He said he remained a proponent of Israel's integration into the region, but that progress on this issue would be difficult without providing “a future for the Palestinians”.

The king said promoting mutual economic interests help to solve the long-standing impasse in the region.

“When I am invested in your success because your success is my success, at the end of the day that means we can move forward,” he said.

“At the end of the day, the Israeli people have the right to pick whoever they want to lead them.

“We will work with anybody and everybody as long as we can bring people together.”

The kingdom has close ties with the Palestinian authority of President Mahmoud Abbas, who visits Amman frequently to co-ordinate with Jordanian officials. Jordan also has open channels with the militant Islamic movement Hamas, which controls Gaza and is supported by Iran.

The official Palestinian news agency quoted on Thursday Hussein Al Sheikh, the Secretary General of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, as saying that King Abdullah's comments about the new Israel government should be a guide for other Arab counties on how to deal with the “upcoming challenges”.

Updated: December 30, 2022, 5:31 AM