Amman warns Jordan Valley annexation pledge puts peace treaty ‘at stake’

Speaker of Jordan’s lower house of parliament says Netanyahu’s ‘racist statements’ require his country to chart a ‘new path’ in its ties with Israel

Screen capture from video of Atef Tarawneh, the Speaker of the Lower House of the Jordanian parliament. (YouTube)
Screen capture from video of Atef Tarawneh, the Speaker of the Lower House of the Jordanian parliament. (YouTube)

The speaker of Jordan’s lower house of parliament said Wednesday a pledge by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to annex a key part of the West Bank if re-elected could put the peace treaty with Israel “at stake.”

“The house of representatives, rejecting all the racist statements coming from the leadership of the occupier, confirms that dealing with this occupier requires a new path that would place the peace treaty at stake,” Atef Tawarneh said in remarks carried by official news agency Petra.

He accused Israel of having “studiously broken all international treaties and (UN) resolutions.”

On Tuesday, Netanyahu vowed to extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea, which account for a third of the West Bank, if re-elected next week. He also repeated a campaign promise to apply sovereignty to Israeli settlements, but said he would do so in coordination with the US.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks out at the Allenby Border Terminal with Jordan in the Jordan Valley in 2009 (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Jordan and Israel have been bound by a peace treaty since 1994, but relations between the neighbors have been chronically tense.

The peace accord is just the second between an Arab country and the Jewish state, after Egypt in 1979.

Netanyahu’s announcement sparked an outcry in Arab capitals.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas vowed to cancel any previous agreements with Israel if it went ahead with the move, and Amman warned that extending sovereignty would kill the already moribund peace process.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi speaks during a joint conference with Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit in the Jordanian capital Amman on January 6, 2018. (AFP Photo/Khalil Mazraawi)

On Tuesday, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi blasted Netanyahu’s comments as a “dangerous escalation.”

“We condemn Israel’s prime minister’s announcement — his intention to annex illegitimate Israeli settlements and apply sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and the northern parts of the Dead Sea — as a dangerous escalation that is aimed at blowing up the foundations of the peace process,” he tweeted.

Safadi also said the Arab League, where he participated in meetings on Tuesday, condemned Netanyahu’s comments in an emergency session, though no statement was published by the body.

Tensions between Israel and Jordan have mounted in recent years over such issues as the contested status of Jerusalem and its holy sites, stalled peace talks with the Palestinians, and the 2017 shooting of two Jordanian citizens by an Israeli embassy guard in Amman, which ignited a diplomatic crisis. Jordan’s King Abdullah II also announced last year he would not renew part of the 1994 peace treaty that granted Israel use of two small agricultural areas along the border.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Jordanian King Abdullah II in Jordan in January 2014 (Kobi Gideon/GPO/Flash90/ File)

Last month, Jordanian lawmakers urged their government to kick Israel’s ambassador out of the kingdom and “review” the peace treaty with the Jewish state following violence on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

The compound had been the site of clashes between Muslim worshipers and over the entry of Jews during the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, which this year coincided with the Jewish fast day of Tisha B’Av, mourning the destruction of the two Jewish Temples at the site.

Under the peace treaty between the two countries, Israel recognizes Jordan as the custodian of the Temple Mount and Jerusalem holy sites.

The vote last month was not the first time that Jordanian lawmakers have called to review the peace treaty with Israel, but such calls are largely symbolic. Jordan’s parliament, which is seen as more reactionary and hardline than the monarchy, carries little weight in the country. Policymaking, especially on foreign affairs and defense issues, is tightly controlled by the government and royal court.

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