x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Jordan's King Abdullah visits West Bank to support Abbas

Europe and Jordan fear the repercussions on the Palestinian leader from Israel's settlement plans on occupied Palestinian land and the withholding of more than US$100 million (Dh3.67m) of tax revenues from the PA.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (left) and Jordan’s King Abdullah inspect an honour guard during a welcome ceremony in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (left) and Jordan’s King Abdullah inspect an honour guard during a welcome ceremony in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

RAMALLAH // Jordan's King Abdullah visited the West Bank yesterday for the first time in more than a year for what analysts described as part of an internationally backed show of support for Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinian Authority (PA) president has faced an Israeli retaliation of new settlements and financial punishments after winning Palestinian recognition in the United Nations last week as a non-member state.

The Jordanian leader was the first head of state to the territory since the UN decision, and his accompanying foreign minister, Nasser Judeh, lashed out at the Israeli response during a press conference at the PA's presidential headquarters in Ramallah.

"Building in E-1 hurts the geographical middle of the state," said Mr Judeh, referring to settlement plans for an area between the West Bank and East Jerusalem that could undermine the viability of a Palestinian state.

He added: "The settlement policy is not only rejected from our side as Arabs and Palestinians, but also by the whole world."

Europe and Jordan fear the repercussions on the Palestinian leader from Israel's settlement plans on occupied Palestinian land and withholding of more than US$100 million (Dh3.67m) of tax revenues from the PA, said Noam Sheizaf, editor at +972, an online Israeli magazine.

"It's clear there's an international push to save Abu Mazen, and it certainly seems that King Abdullah's visit is part of that push," he said, referring to the Palestinian leader by his nickname.

Italy and the European Union on Wednesday joined more than a half-dozen countries that have lambasted Israel over the punishments by summoning its ambassadors for questioning.

Concern has been especially pronounced over Israeli designs on the E-1 area where construction plans were presented to the Israeli military on Wednesday. A committee also is expected to meet over building the Givat Hamatos, which would be the first new settlement since 1997 in the desired Palestinian capital of East Jerusalem.

With popularity of the Gaza Strip's Hamas rulers having increased among Palestinians because of their eight-day war with Israel last month, concern has mounted that Mr Abbas's ability to lead the way to Palestinian independence has been seriously undermined, Mr Sheizaf said. "There's a 'now or never' feeling about the two-state solution in Europe," he said.

Mr Abbas suggested during a press conference in Ramallah on Wednesday that he would use his new-found leverage at the UN to thwart Israeli moves to develop in E-1.

He said he ordered his UN team to take the matter up with the world body's general secretary, Ban Ki-moon, and the 15-member Security Council. "We will see their reaction to the Israeli settlement decision, then we will study the next step," he said.

In letters sent to various UN bodies on Wednesday, the Palestinians urged the international community to stop Israel's "illegal settlement campaign", describing it as "methodically and aggressively pushing ahead with this unlawful land grab and colonisation of Palestine".

hnaylor@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by the Associated Press

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