Gantz, Abdullah hold talks in Jordan

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with King Abdullah II at the Royal Palace in Amman to discuss regional and security challenges, just ahead of another visit to the Hashemite Kingdom by Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

By Erin Viner

According to a statement TV7 obtained from the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMoD) Communications Office, Minister Gantz spoke with the Jordanian Monarch about measures Israel is planning to take in order to enable freedom of prayer in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria during the Islamic month of Ramadan, set to begin on Saturday.

Jerusalem’s top defense official also discussed “the importance of security coordination during this period, as well as additional civilian measures that will benefit Palestinians in Judea and Samaria (West Bank), and in Gaza and which will be implemented in accordance with the security interests of the State of Israel,” said the statement.

The pre-arranged visit comes amid a surge of violent Arab terrorism that has claimed the lives of 11 Israelis in three separate attacks over the past week alone.

The IMoD said that Minister Gantz “emphasized the importance of maintaining regional peace and stability and the need to fight terrorism in all its forms, specifically to act forcefully against ISIS, which has coordinated the recent attacks in Israel.”

He also thanked the Jordanian Monarch for his leadership and positive influence in the region, as well as his willingness to deepen peaceful relations and to expand cooperation between the Hashemite Kingdom and Israel in all areas.

The Israeli Defense Minister wished His Majesty and the people of Jordan “Ramadan Kareem” ahead of the upcoming month of prayer and fasting.

The visit came just one day before Israeli President Herzog’s talks today with King Abdullah at the Al Husseiniya Palace in Amman, and one day after the Jordan King made a rare visit to the Ramallah headquarters of the Palestinian Authority (PA) for a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Jordanian leader traveled to the West Bank for his first visit in nearly five years – at the same time Israeli Foreign Minister Lapid hosted an historic Israeli-Arab summit attended by his counterparts from Morocco, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and the United States.  Amman declined Jerusalem’s invitation to attend the Negev Summit.

Earlier this month Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid traveled to Amman for his second meeting with King Abdullah to coordinate strategies to secure calm in Jerusalem, a frequent flashpoint of Palestinian protests, particularly over Ramadan.

Concern over over a resurgence of Palestinian rioting during the Islamic holiday was also a topic of discussion in Washington recently between top United States officials and the Director of the Israeli Security Agency (ISA), Ronen Bar.

Last year, Ramadan was marred by serious clashes between Palestinian rioters and Israeli police in Jerusalem, holy to all three faiths. The wave of violence helped stoke the 11-day Operation Guardian of the Walls last May, when Palestinian terror groups in Gaza fired over 4,000 missiles at Israel – starting in Jerusalem.

While Israel asserts sovereignty over all of Jerusalem as its “eternal and indivisible capital,” Jordan’s Hashemite ruling family is the Custodian of Muslim and Christian holy sites in the city administered by the Amman-backed Waqf Islamic authority.

Jerusalem was reunited in the 1967 Six Day War, when Israel captured the eastern portion of the city and parts of the West Bank from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, and Gaza from Egypt.

Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979 and with Jordan in 1994.