U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held separate meetings with Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, and with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and King Abdullah II on Thursday in Jordan.
The leaders discussed how to reduce the tensions surrounding the Temple Mount holy site in Jerusalem. The tensions stem from the fact that a few Jews wish to visit the Temple Mount and, possibly, pray there, while Arabs see in this a threat to everything they hold dear and see in sharing it the start of the Jewish takeover of the place.
Kerry referred to the site first by its Arab and then by its Jewish name.
In a statement following his meetings, Kerry said Netanyahu “strongly reaffirmed his commitment to uphold the status quo” of barring Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount.
No Jews allowed has been the status quo since the second century, give or take, when the Roman Empire changed the name of the country from Judea to Palestina. While at it, the Roman also sprinkled salt all over the land of Jerusalem, not to help with the occasional snow, but to prevent anything from growing there.
Abbas, according to Kerry, stated his commitment to “non-violence and restoring calm” in Jerusalem and the West Bank, where Palestinian terrorism has been on the upswing.
Many in Israel, including Netanyahu, have blamed the volatile situation on Abbas, mostly because of his speeches which clearly and openly incite to violence against Jews. It’s quite possible, then, that if he stops doing that it would help reduce tensions.
“There is an urgent need to address these greatest tensions, and an imperative need to uphold the status quo at the Haram esh-Sharif – Temple Mount, ” Kerry said.
An Israeli official told the Times of Israel that Netanyahu spoke to Kerry about the need for Abbas to end violence-provoking incitement by PA officials. Just hours before the Jordan meetings began, Arab rioters threw stones and other objects at Israeli police in eastern Jerusalem.
JNS contributed to this report.