Ronen Bar, the head of the Shin Bet security service, met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last week in Ramallah, The Times of Israel has learned.
The meeting came amid efforts to restore calm amid days of violent protests and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. As Ramadan and Passover overlapped, tensions at the flashpoint site increased. Palestinians accused Israel of violating the status quo there, while Israel said it was forced to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to quell planned riots and stone-throwing by Palestinians.
The compound, known as the Noble Sanctuary, is the third holiest site in Islam. Jews consider it the holiest site in Judaism, calling it the Temple Mount. The current status quo at the site, which is administered by the Jordanian Waqf, allows Jews to visit at certain times but not to pray, while Muslims have broader access and prayer.
Israel’s response to the violence has drawn strong rebuke from several of its Arab allies, including Jordan. On Wednesday, Abbas met in Amman with King Abdullah of Jordan to discuss tensions in Jerusalem.
Abdullah called on the international community “to restore calm in the holy city and prevent recurrent attacks against Islamic and Christian holy sites and the people therein”, the Jordanian Royal Court said.
More than 100,000 Muslim worshipers took part in peaceful mass prayers on the Temple Mount on Wednesday evening on one of the few remaining nights before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan ends on May 1.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett conducted a security check on Wednesday evening for fear of an escalation, especially on Friday, marking the last Friday prayers of Ramadan. Next week will also mark both Eid al-Fitr and Israel’s Independence Day, potential hotbeds of clashes.
Also on Wednesday, Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai conducted a security assessment with senior Jerusalem police officials.
Since the Bennett-led government was sworn in nearly a year ago, Abbas has held a series of meetings with senior Israeli officials, marking a sea change from relations under Bennett’s predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Bar met Abbas in Ramallah in November 2021, shortly after taking over as head of the internal security service. Abbas also met twice with Defense Minister Benny Gantz, as well as Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and
Bennett has repeatedly said he has no intention of meeting Abbas because he believes such a meeting would be of no value, but he has not stopped ministers and other officials from doing so.