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Jordan's King Abdullah II makes rare visit to West Bank after Jerusalem shrine crisis

Jordan’s king and the Palestinian Authority president held a short meeting in the West Bank on Monday, a move seen by some observers as an act of unity during a time of heightened tension with Israel.

King Abdullah II met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah during the king’s first visit to the West Bank in five years.

Officials said the leaders discussed recent tension with Israel tied to a Jerusalem plateau known by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.

After Arab-Israeli gunmen shot dead two Israeli policemen at the shrine compound last month, Israel installed new metal detectors at the entrance to the esplanade of the mosques, an area containing the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque, which resulted in Muslim protests. The devices were removed by Israel a short time later after Jordan and others intervened.

Jordan, which is the official custodian of Jerusalem's Muslim holy sites under the country’s peace treaty with Israel, often plays a mediating role in the region.

The electronic security devices were viewed by Muslims as an Israeli encroachment on their sovereignty over the site. Israel has said it was not trying to encroach on Muslim rights.

“This is an important visit in terms of the ties between Palestine and Jordan, especially after what happened in Jerusalem,” said Muhammad Hussein, the grand mufti of Jerusalem.

Abdullah, who received a red-carpet welcome Monday, did not travel to Jerusalem, which is about 12 miles away.

Anwar Ben Badis, a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and an expert on Palestinian affairs, said in an interview, “The symbolism is more important than institutions in Palestinian politics.”

After the visit, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called on the U.S. government to reassert its commitment to a two-state peace plan between Israelis and Palestinians.

Tarnopolsky is a special correspondent.


UPDATES:

4:30 p.m.: This story was updated to add background on Jordan’s role as custodian of Jerusalem’s Muslim holy sites.

This story was originally published at 2:25 p.m.

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