Jerusalem/Amman: Israel announced that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has postponed his first visit to the United Arab Emirates this Thursday because of Jordan’s lag in overflight rights that led to Amman’s rare condemnation of a controversial holy site in Jerusalem.
An Abu Dhabi appearance would have allowed Netanyahu to put his imprimatur on Israel-UAE ties that were formalised last year – a foreign policy flourish as he seeks re-election on March 23.
The UAE had not formally confirmed the planned visit, which leaked to Israeli media on Wednesday. According to a statement issued by Netanyahu s office, he and Abu Dhabi s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan agreed to reschedule.
A hold-up in overflight permission from Amman for Netanyahu s plane “apparently” stemmed from the cancellation of a visit by Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah to Jerusalem s Al Aqsa mosque compound on Wednesday over a dispute regarding security arrangements at the site, the statement said.
Netanyahu’s trip was finally approved, but it was too late, which included meeting with his visiting Hungarian and Czech counterparts later on Thursday.
Jordanian officials did not immediately comment on the overflight issue. However, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman al-Safadi confirmed that the Crown Prince had cancelled his visit to Al-Aqsa-this will be the first visit of a future king of Jordan.
State television quoted Safadi as saying that the Israeli authorities tried to change the program agreed with Amman, believing that this would be harmful to the right of worship of Palestine and Muslims.
“The crown prince did not want to allow Israel to impose restrictions on Muslims,” Safadi was quoted as saying.
Jordan s ruling Hashemite dynasty is the custodian of the Al Aqsa compound, an icon of the Palestinian statehood struggle and the third holiest site in Islam. Israel, which made peace with Jordan in 1994, maintains security control around the site, which Jews revere as the vestige of their two ancient temples.
Jordan says Israel has no sovereign rights over the compound and has long chafed at organised visits there by religious Jews.
Netanyahu had been due to visit the UAE and Bahrain – which also has newly established ties with Israel – last month but postponed that trip citing COVID-19 travel restrictions.