King Abdullah II of Jordan will arrive Monday in Ramallah on a very rare brief visit to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud. The two leaders will meet at the headquarters of the Palestinian government before noon.
Senior Israeli officials estimate that the king’s visit is in anticipation of Abbas’ planned meeting later in the week with Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas’ political wing, and the possibility of establishing a Palestinian unity government.
The Jordanian king has not visited the West Bank in over five years, throughout Abbas’ presidency. Abdullah cancelled a planned visit to Ramallah in May 2007 at the last minute. At this stage, King Abdullah is only expected to visit Ramallah and has no plans to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
Senior officials in Jerusalem believe that the king’s brief visit is intended to convey a number of messages to Abbas concerning the proposed Palestinian unity government with Hamas and concerning his threats to quit his post and even to disband the Palestinian Authority.
The Jordanians are very worried about the possibility of Abbas falling from power in the West Bank and Hamas taking over control of the area.
Last week, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman sent a conciliatory message to Jordan, calling it "a stabilizing element in the region, in comparison to what is happening in other nations." Lieberman was responding to recent reports that sources in the government are again mulling the idea of a Palestinian state in Jordan.
"Discussion about Jordan as a Palestinian state is against Israeli interests and against reality," Lieberman continued. "Saying Jordan is Palestine opposes international borders as well as the peace accord we signed with them."
Abdallah's visit comes after a meeting on Sunday between Abbas and U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns. Burns came to deliver a message from U.S. President Barack Obama concerning a Palestinian unity government, and stressed that the administration will only engage with such a government if it accepts that Quartet's conditions – recognition of Israel, honoring past agreements and putting an end to terror. Abbas replied that as far as he is concerned, Palestinian reconciliation is the most important goal at the moment.
Burns will meet in Jerusalem on Monday with Netanyhau and will relay the administration stance on the Palestinian and Iranian issues. Burns is expected to emphasize that the U.S. expect Israel to release the Palestinian tax revenues it froze a month and half ago. The money was halted after UNESCO granted the Palestinians full membership.
On Sunday, Netanyahu convened his top ministers, known as the Forum of Eight, to discuss releasing the funds.
Last week the funds were expected to be released, as both GOC Central Command and the Shin Bet both believe that the continued withholding of the funds would hurt the salaries of Palestinian police officers, which could ultimately destabilize security arrangements in the West Bank. However, sources said that no decision was reached and further discussions were to take place in the coming days.
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