Jordan's King Abdullah walks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Jordan returned its ambassador to Israel on Monday, three months after recalling him to protest Israeli “aggression” on the Temple Mount, and on the same day Jordan’s King Abdullah II flew to the US for talks.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu swiftly praised the move, calling it an “important step that reflects Israeli- Jordanian joint interests, first and foremost stability, security and peace.”
The timing of the return of the ambassador, just as Abdullah flew to the US to meet with administration officials and members of Congress, raised speculation that the two events were related, and that Abdullah did not want to come under criticism in Washington for keeping the kingdom’s embassy in Tel Aviv empty.
The returning ambassador, Walid Obeidat, was recalled to Amman in November, at the height of tensions in Jerusalem. Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said at the time that the move was designed to send a signal of how seriously Jordan viewed the situation.
The step followed Israel’s closing the Temple Mount for a day to Muslim worshipers after the assassination attempt on Temple Mount activist Yehudah Glick. US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Netanyahu and Abdullah in Amman about a week later to try to keep the situation – including the Israeli-Jordanian ties – from deteriorating further.
Jordan’s Information Minister Muhammad al-Momani announced Monday that Obeidat would be going back to Israel, and said this comes after a “significant improvement” in the numbers of Muslims worshiping at al-Aksa Mosque. He said that in recent weeks, tens of thousands of worshipers had gone to pray there.
Israeli officials said that the reason the Jordanians gave for recalling their ambassador had to do with Jerusalem’s restrictions on access to the mosques on the Temple Mount, as well as “provocative” visits there by Knesset members. Since the period of intense tension in the capital in October and November, which saw a spike in the terrorist incidents that led Jerusalem to take measures restricting access to the Temple Mount, Israel has adopted policies aimed at trying to bring about quiet in capital and at the site.
Among these steps, one official said, was “vigorously” maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount, stressing and restressing that there is no intention to change the status quo there, and ensuring that when the security situation would allow it, the Temple Mount would be open with full access for Muslim worshipers.
The official said that in recent weeks, whenever Jordan has come up during meetings between Netanyahu and visiting congressmen and senators, the prime minister has consistently praised the king and referred to the Hashemite Kingdom as a crucial part of the alliance against extremist forces in the region.