Jordan Joins Bid to Talk to Hamas
King Abdullah II of Jordan paid a rare visit here to join Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in his effort to reconcile with the militant Palestinian group Hamas and take defensive action against the rise of political Islam.
After getting clearance from Israel, which controls the airspace over the West Bank, the Jordanian monarch flew the short distance by helicopter, landing late Monday morning at Mr. Abbas’s headquarters in Ramallah for the first time in more than a decade.
The two U.S.-allied leaders are faced with a defunct peace process with Israel and expectations of a strong showing for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptian elections scheduled to begin next week, following the recent election success of Tunisia’s Islamists. Mr. Abbas, meanwhile, has lost some political traction after his bid to get the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state stalled this month.
Those events have compelled King Abdullah and Mr. Abbas to reconcile with Hamas, said Palestinian officials and analysts, in hopes of gaining broader political support and containing the group, which is the Palestinian affiliate of the Brotherhood.
“Growing success for the Brotherhood will isolate the secular movements in the region—including Jordan and Palestine,” said Imad Musleh, a political columnist for the al Quds newspaper in Jerusalem. “That is why these two men are sitting together today.”
U.S.-allied Arab countries such as Jordan and Egypt have largely shunned Hamas. Jordan expelled Hamas officials in 1999, and later initiated a crackdown against the group.
Mr. Abbas said last week that he would make a new push for implementing a unity accord with Hamas from May. The accord would set up an interim joint rule and elections next year for the Palestinian parliament and president.
Hamas’s Syria-based leader Khaled Meshaal is scheduled to meet with Mr. Abbas, the leader of the secular Fatah party, at the end of the week in Cairo to discuss a plan to end a four-year feud.
The surprise visit by King Abdullah was seen here as an indication that the reconciliation efforts are serious.
Mr. Meshaal is expected to follow his meeting with Mr. Abbas with a visit with King Abdullah in Jordan, and discuss the possibility of allowing Hamas to operate openly there for the first time since the 1990s. Mr. Meshaal is under some pressure in Syria, where antigovernment unrest could force his group to relocate. Hamas is also believed to be looking into opening an office in Egypt.