Israeli authorities give preliminary approval to build 200 illegal homes in east Jerusalem amid heightened tensions.
Israel’s prime minister is in Amman to attend three-way talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah and John Kerry, the US secretary of state, aimed at calming tensions gripping Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s arrival in the Jordanian capital came just hours after Kerry met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who however was not due to take part in the talks.
According to the royal court, the three leaders were discussing ways to return calm in Jerusalem.
“They will also talk about the possibility of relaunching negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians,” Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El-Shamayleh, reporting from Amman, said
She said it was highly significant that the US was mediating the talks, because it showed how tense the relations between Jordan and Israel had become in recent months.
The two neighbours have a peace treaty and, until now, their leaders held meetings regularly without the need for outside involvement.
Settlement units planned
Simmering unrest in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem has in recent days spread to the occupied West Bank and Arab communities across Israel, raising fears of a new Palestinian uprising.
The meeting between Abbas and Kerry, who arrived in Jordan late on Wednesday, came a day after Israel approved plans for 200 homes in a settlement in East Jerusalem, a move sharply criticised by the US.
Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territories are considered illegal under international law.
Kerry and Abbas embraced and had a brief whispered exchange as they met at the Palestinian leader’s hillside home in Amman.
Much of the unrest in Jerusalem has been prompted by Israeli moves to step up settlement activity in the city’s eastern sector and by religious tensions at al-Aqsa compound, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews.
Earlier, a tense confrontation erupted in the city’s Issawiya neighbourhood as about 100 residents, including schoolchildren, tried to block a main road after police closed off several neighbourhood entrances with concrete blocks.
A local activist denounced the blocks as “collective punishment” against Palestinians in Jerusalem.
The Palestinians have also been angered by a far-right Jewish campaign for prayer rights at al-Aqsa compound, although Israel insists it has no plans to change the decades-old status quo.