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Jordan king visits West Bank to support Palestinians

Jordan's King Abdullah II paid a rare visit to the West Bank on Thursday in a show of support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' successful bid for U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state.

Abbas and the king are political allies, and last met Sunday in Jordan, during one of the Palestinian leader's frequent stops in the neighboring kingdom. But Thursday's visit was just the third time the king has visited the West Bank, and the first time in more than a year.

The king received a red carpet welcome with military honors at Abbas' government compound in the West Bank after landing in a helicopter Thursday morning.

Last week, the U.N. General Assembly recognized a state of Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem -- lands Israel occupied in 1967 -- as a non-member observer.

The king's arrival gave a high-profile boost of support to the U.N. bid, which has come under fierce Israeli criticism. Jordan is one of just two Arab countries with a peace agreement with Israel, so Abdullah's public support was significant.

Israel accuses the Palestinians of trying to circumvent the negotiating process by seeking U.N. recognition. Although the vote did not change the situation on the ground, the international community endorsed the Palestinian position on future borders with Israel. Israel refuses to return to its pre-1967 lines.

Israel has responded to the Palestinians' U.N. move by cutting off a regularly scheduled $100 million tax transfer to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, and announced plans to build thousands of new settler homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

The settlement plans have sparked widespread international criticism, and prompted the Palestinians to file a complaint at the United Nations. But Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has refused to back down.

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