King of Jordan visits West Bank to congratulate Abbas

RAMALLAH, West Bank Thu Dec 6, 2012 2:46pm EST

1 of 5. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (R) speaks with Jordan's King Abdullah upon his arrival in the West Bank city of Ramallah December 6, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Yousef Allan/Royal Palace/Handout

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RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - King Abdullah of Jordan visited Palestinian leaders in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Thursday, congratulating them on a successful U.N. status upgrade in the teeth of Israel's threat to expand settlements.

Jordan is at peace with Israel and Abdullah is an ally of the United States as well as Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas whom he sees regularly in nearby Amman, where Abbas has a home.

Other Arab leaders do not travel to the West Bank because it is Israeli-controlled, but the King made the short trip - his second visit in about a year - from his capital by helicopter.

He is the first head of state to visit since an overwhelming majority of U.N. members last month implicitly recognized the state of Palestine.

The vote was followed immediately by an announcement from the Israeli cabinet confirming a plan to construct about 3,000 settler homes in the strategic E1 corridor near Jerusalem, which Palestinians say would lop the West Bank in two.

There was no public fanfare for Abdullah's visit, and no official announcements after Thursday's closed-door talks. The king flew in his helicopter back to Amman after lunch at the Ramallah compound of the Palestinian leader.

"The world has rejected settlements as unconstructive and illegal and there have been condemnations from numerous countries to this decision," Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Joudeh told reporters in Ramallah.

Israel and the United States opposed the U.N. General Assembly's upgrade of the Palestinians' status to "non-member state", saying Abbas should instead resume peace talks that collapsed in 2010 over Israeli settlement-building.

But Abbas received a huge boost at home from the U.N. endorsement. In contrast, when Abdullah last visited, in November 2011, the Palestinian president's popularity was at rock bottom after years of pursuing an elusive peace process while Israel continued to build settlements.

RIVALS

Abbas seeks a Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel. But with peace talks suspended since November 2010 he has been overshadowed by the muscle-flexing of the rival Hamas movement, the Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip and preaches armed resistance to evict Israel from the land.

In a sign that his Fatah movement could heal a deep rift with Hamas, Abbas has won backing for the U.N. move from Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Meshaal, who is due to pay his first visit to Gaza on Friday and can expect a hero's welcome.

Abbas calls Israel's E1 project an uncrossable "red line".

Palestinian leaders have said they may seek a resolution condemning Israel for the move at the U.N. Security Council, where the United States would likely use its veto power.

"We considers these steps a flagrant defiance of the will of the international community, which supported raising the status of Palestine to a state, and a clear assault on Palestinian land and rights," a West Bank cabinet statement said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rejecting U.S. and European calls to reverse course on settlement expansion, has said Israel must defend its "vital interests" in a part of the West Bank that his pro-settler government would seek to hold on to in any future land-for-peace deal with Abbas.

"What we've advanced so far is only planning, and we will have to see," Netanyahu told the German daily Die Welt.

Members of the U.S. Congress backing Israel have proposed restricting hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. funding to the Palestinians and U.N. agencies recognizing their statehood.

The Palestinians have dispatched their U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour to oil-rich Qatar, which has pledged to cover their bills while Israel - as threatened - withholds $200 million in tax revenues the West Bank government needs to keep running.

As a reprisal for what it called a "unilateral" move to establish statehood without a peace accord, Israel announced it would hold back customs duties it collects on behalf of the Palestinians. It said the money would be used to pay the Palestinians' outstanding electricity bill.

An Arab League meeting set for the weekend in the Qatari capital Doha is expected to review the situation.

(Reporting by Noah Browning in Ramallah and Michelle Nichols at the U.N.; Editing by Douglas Hamilton and Pravin Char)

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Comments (15)
reality-again wrote:
“Palestinians fear that Israeli housing in the area could divide the West Bank and make the creation of a contiguous state impossible, concerns shared by some of Israel’s closest allies.”
This argument is moot, since the territory controlled by Palestinians is already divided in two: The Gaza strip along the Mediterranean, and the West Bank dozes of miles from there.
Palestine was not meant to have a contiguous territory even in 1947, when the UN decided to divide the land between the Jewish and Arab communities living in it.
The solution to this conflict is political and strategic – The Palestinians need to realize that being in such proximity to Israel naturally and inevitably means close relations between the two countries – Relations based on mutual interests and cooperation, and not on quibbling over land, which delays any solution.
Since the Palestinians have a weak hand in this game, they should play it the best they can, rather than try to play a better hand that they don’t have, or attempt to play a game of total war, like the second Palestinian government Hamas does.

Dec 06, 2012 10:18am EST  --  Report as abuse
paintcan wrote:
@realityagain – Neither side was supposed to have contiguous borders. The plan was based on existing settlement patterns and Israel didn’t like the situation. That isn’t being said and is even being lied about now.

The new state should take those settlements as compensation for the loss of other territories. What other country on earth would put up with Sharon’s ridiculous policy? What other country on earth had ever faced a situation like this? States have confiscated property (Israel for one) or nationalized private property with compensation (many other countries) before.

It’s never a good idea to build on real estate without clear title to the site. The Israelis have never had, what could be called, clear title to the West Bank. They don’t decide those issues themselves, obviously! They just might loose them to the rightful owner. It isn’t clear what site were gained by purchase and what site were gained by confiscation. It doesn’t matter what one calls the occupants of the West Bank, they are still claimants to the property (or at least what wasn’t purchase outright).

The Israeli’s keep the IDF in the West Bank for very tangible gains and anyone with an ounce of brains knows that!

If the Israelis didn’t want to face this day they could have managed the situation a lot more generously. Instead of clinging to their “Jewishness” and building one of the prettiest ghettos in the modern world, they could have incorporated the West Bank and started to raise those people to be world class and not mortal enemies. They would have been a lot smarter to invest in a “charm offensive” rather than in bricks, mortar, and tanks. The early Israelis had one hell of an attitude. I have been hearing it for over 50 years.

It would serve them right to loose all the settlements to the new state. IF the cost of a life and property, dubious imprisonment of ten of thousands, torture and extra judicial assassinations were calculated in the cost of retributions, (actually, they don’t raise that issue) the West Bank and Gaza would have a big back bill to present the Israelis. The disproportionate loss of civilians may look good to the hawks but it looks terrible in any other situation. What do you think would happen to anyone else doing that anywhere else, except maybe Rwanda?

In a world run by a true rule of law, this situation could not have occurred. It is still a world managed by warlords.

Dec 06, 2012 1:42pm EST  --  Report as abuse
paintcan wrote:
excuse me – what “Sites”- my terrible glasses.

And BTW – one of the things I noticed about the early history of the State of Israel was the fact that the existing Jewish inhabitants, pre-partition, were not all that welcoming of the idea of a “Jewish State” either. They knew it would make trouble with their Arab neighbors. Mass movements have a life of their own and bulldoze anything in their path. And the first thing that dies is a feel for proportion, balance and common sense.

The Palestinians have been very long suffering actually. The Israelis have been behaving like spoiled, and very arrogant, brats.

The Movie Exodus (haven’t seen it in decades) painted the British as villains and they had very good sense.

How does anyone think the settlers would react if they found their servants had become their masters?

“building tunnels, bridges, roads there to facilitate Palestinian movement,”

That’s so sweet. That’s what you build to facilitate the movement of deer or moose. But it proves that the roads built in the West Bank were, as the Palestinians have been saying all along, reserved for the Israeli settlers. No wonder the Israelis supported apartheid S. Africa. They are so much like them.

I’m just aching to read more about the filthy business of settlement construction. It’s a pity, because the biggest and best are all so pretty and well designed, from what I have seen. The Palestinians never seemed to have appreciated the views from hilltops. But then again – they never had a chance to build anything without Israeli interference.

Dec 06, 2012 2:30pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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