A former senior security policy maker in the administration of Primer Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel should offer to bolster Jordan’s defenses against Sunni militants nearing their border.
Yaakov Amidror, who until recently served as the national security adviser, said with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant advancing in Iraq, Israel should come to Amman’s aid should it need it.
“If Jordan asks for assistance, we should help,” Amidror told Army Radio. “We need to help with whatever they may need in order to overcome the problems developing on their eastern borders.”
According to Israeli officials, Israel has not changed its military deployment on its border with Jordan, but is closely watching ISIL’s activities in both Iraq and Syria.
The group, a splinter from al-Qaeda, has taken over wide swaths of Iraqi and Syrian territory, and is threatening to move on Baghdad as well.
On Friday, senior Obama administration officials were quoted saying Jordan may ask Israel and the United States to help it fight ISIL if it threatens Amman.
According to a report by The Daily Beast, the officials told senators in a classified briefing earlier this week that ISIL is eyeing Jordan as well as its war-torn neighbors, and that some of its jihadists have already tweeted out photos and messages saying they have seized a key Jordanian town.
The Daily Beast quoted one of the Senate staff members who attended the briefing as saying that, according to the administration officials, if Jordan were to face a military onslaught from ISIL, it would “ask Israel and the United States for as much help as they can get.”
Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994.
Senior Israeli officials, quoted by Channel 2 TV Saturday, said Israel was “not too troubled at this stage” by ISIL, but that Israeli Military Intelligence had been monitoring what they said was a 10,000-strong organization for more than two years.
Amos Yadlin, a former head of Military Intelligence who now runs the INSS think tank at Tel Aviv University, said he anticipated that ISIL “will turn its attention toward Jordan if it encounters problems taking control of Baghdad, and I believe it will encounter those problems.”
Yadlin told Channel 2 that all countries have an interest in stopping ISIL, but the US was being highly cautious. It had lost 4,000 soldiers, spent a trillion dollars and had no interest in being drawn deeply back into Iraq.
By contrast, he said, the US and Israel would come to Jordan’s aid, if needed, more quickly than to Iraq’s. The US already had forces in Jordan helping the Syrian opposition, he noted.
Overall, Israel anticipates that the Jordanian military, which this week bombed ISIL targets across the border in Iraq, will prove capable of countering ISIL, the TV report said, though Israel does anticipate a possibility that Jordan may benefit from Israeli intelligence assistance.
Despite the dramatic headlines and speculation in the international media that ISIL will invade Jordan and take up residence on Israel’s eastern border, the thinking in Israel is that the spread of global jihad beyond the borders of Iraq and Syria will not be so simple, and that there are signs ISIL’s advances are stalling.
The Iraqi military, tribal militias in Tikrit and northern Iraq, and the Kurdish peshmerga, have expressed willingness to cooperate in order to stop the terror organization. And ISIL’s accomplishments in Syria have not been that impressive, Israeli analysts note.
The bottom line is that when ISIL finally confronts an organized military, or even a semi-organized military such as Syria’s (and certainly Jordan’s, if that day arrives), the analysts believe, it will hardly look as menacing and powerful as it has been portrayed as being in Iraq.
AP, AFP and Avi Issacharoff contributed to this report.