US Secretary of State calls Jordan Foreign Minister after anti-Israel comments

Israel says Jordanian praise for Palestinian stone throwers encourages militants

Palestinian Muslims pray near Al Aqsa Mosque as Israeli security forces look on. AFP

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken telephoned Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi on Tuesday, the State Department said, after the kingdom's prime minister made comments about violence in Palestine that Israel deemed encouraging to militants.

An official US statement said the two men "discussed the importance of Israelis and Palestinians working to end the cycle of violence by refraining from actions and rhetoric that further escalate tensions".

Jordan has been increasingly vocal in its criticism of Israel in response to what it regards as Israeli breaches in occupied East Jerusalem.

Israeli worshippers and security personnel have entered Al Aqsa Mosque several times in the past few weeks, provoking Palestinian anger.

Al Aqsa Mosque

The mosque, which is partly administered by Jordan, is located in the Temple Mount, a site holy to Muslims and Jews.

Bloodshed in Israel and occupied Palestinian territories in the past few weeks is threatening another war between Israel and the Iranian-backed militant group Hamas. The two sides fought an 11-day war in May last year.

Addressing Jordan's mostly ceremonial parliament on Monday, Prime Minister Bisher Al Khasawneh lauded "those throwing their stones at all of those Zionists who desecrate Al Aqsa Mosque with the protection of the Israeli occupation government".

Authority over foreign policy in Jordan rests with King Abdullah, who returned to Jordan on Tuesday after back surgery in Germany.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett described Mr Khasawneh's remarks as grave, and as blaming Israel for the violence when Palestinians are throwing stones and wounding Israelis.

"This serves as a prize for the inciters, chief most Hamas, who are trying to ignite violence here in Jerusalem," Mr Bennett said.

Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.

While the two countries differ over the conflict in Palestine, they have close bilateral security ties and officials from both countries have usually refrained from direct criticism of each other.

But as violence mounted in the past two months, Jordanian officials indicated that Israel was largely to blame.

In the latest bouts of violence, Palestinian extremists have killed 14 people in Israel, Israeli raids in the occupied West Bank killed about 20 Palestinians and scores of Palestinians at Al Aqsa were wounded by Israeli rubber bullets and stun grenades.

Israel bombed Gaza on Tuesday for the first time in months after militants fired a rocket from Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas.

Jordan, which expelled Hamas in the late 1990s, signed an enhanced defence pact with the US last year and is one of the largest recipients of American aid.

The kingdom has sought a bigger role in relation to solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict since the departure of the Donald Trump administration in January 2021.

Mr Trump was seen in Amman as having sidelined the kingdom as he focused on fostering Arab normalisation with Israel.

Jordanian officials consider the kingdom as having a special relationship in relation to Jerusalem, dating from the early 20th century, when religious leaders in Palestine awarded the Sharif of Makkah, the great grandfather of King Abdullah, custodianship of Al Aqsa.

In his call with Mr Al Safadi, Mr Blinken said he appreciated "the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s special role as custodian of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem".

Updated: April 19, 2022, 6:55 PM
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