debkafile Exclusive: King Abdullah of Jordan denies audience to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, invites Hamas PM Ismail Haniya
Abbas was due to report to the king in Amman Monday, Dec. 25, on his Saturday night talks with Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and the steps offered to ease life in the Palestinian territories. When told that he had arrived in Amman without the Hamas PM, Abdullah called the meeting off. Observers report the humiliated Palestinian leader left the Jordanian capital abruptly. He has a date for Tuesday with President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo.
Meantime, Jordanian prime minister Maarouf Batih phoned Haniya and invited him to the palace. The Jordanian monarch is the first pro-Western Arab ruler to open his door to the Hamas prime minister. Egyptian and Saudi rulers have declined to receive him.
debkafile‘s sources report that the slap in the face to Abbas was directed with greater force at Olmert, who a week earlier visited Amman to report to the king on the benefits he proposed to pledge to Abbas at their forthcoming interview. Abdullah dismissed the package as too little and demanded far more drastic concessions to put the brakes on the Palestinians’ descent into civil war before it spilled over into his kingdom. He then offered to receive Olmert, Abu Mazen and Haniya in Amman and personally mediate their disputes. The Israeli prime minister rejected the offer on the spot. The king made no response.
It transpired later that Abdullah resolved there and then to have nothing to do with the Olmert-Abbas track, which he regards at best as a side-show of the main Palestinian power play. By standing Abbas up, he made this view plain to the Palestinians and the Arab world. He also showed the Israeli prime minister that his steps to consolidate Abbas were a pointless exercise, unless Hamas was simultaneously addressed.
Israel’s prime minister, defense minister, his deputy and army chiefs are working now on those steps to have them ready for the Muslim Feast of Sacrifice celebrated next Wednesday. They are to include the removal of a certain number of West Bank roadblocks, eased restrictions on goods carried through checkpoints, more permits for Palestinian businessmen and VIPS to travel between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, greater access for international organization staffers and shorter checks at crossings. The Gaza Strip crossings will be augmented and work extra shifts to expand goods traffic. Army chiefs have warned that the easing of restrictions carries the risk of disrupting the counter-terror measures which have kept Israel relatively free of terrorist attacks for two years.