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Bennett met secretly last week with Jordan’s King Abdullah in Amman

Jordanian officials said to be unnerved by news of meeting leaking out, having agreed to summit under condition of strict secrecy

Jordan's King Abdullah II gives a speech during the inauguration of the 19th Parliament’s non-ordinary session, in Amman, Jordan, on December 10, 2020. (Yousef Allan/The Royal Hashemite Court via AP)
Jordan's King Abdullah II gives a speech during the inauguration of the 19th Parliament’s non-ordinary session, in Amman, Jordan, on December 10, 2020. (Yousef Allan/The Royal Hashemite Court via AP)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Jordanian King Abdullah II met in secret last week at the crown palace in Amman, in the first summit between the countries’ leaders in over three years.

Bennett, who took office less than a month ago, traveled to meet Abdullah last Tuesday, a day after he spoke with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi.

The Prime Minister’s Office declined to comment on reports of the talks, first carried by Walla News, but an Israeli official confirmed the meeting to the Associated Press.

News of the meeting came hours after Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with his Jordanian counterpart, Ayman Safadi, on the Jordanian side of the Allenby Bridge crossing. The two announced a deal for Israel to supply Jordan with 50 million cubic meters (65 million cubic yards) of water as it battles a severe drought.

According to Walla News, the meeting last week was largely positive, and Bennett informed Abdullah of Israel’s decision to boost water exports to Jordan.

The meeting marked the first time Abdullah has met an Israeli prime minister since he hosted Benjamin Netanyahu in 2018. That meeting was also held in secret and only announced after the fact.

In February, Defense Minister Benny Gantz reportedly met secretly with Abdullah in Jordan. According to reports, Abdullah had refused to meet with Netanyahu, whom he strongly disliked.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (L) and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speak during the swearing-in ceremony for new President Isaac Herzog on July 7, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Hebrew media reports Thursday evening indicated that Jordanian officials were unhappy with the fact that the meeting leaked out, since the sides had agreed it would not be publicized.

A government source told Channel 12 News that the news “embarrassed the king and it will definitely affect the ties between the nations, after a new page was seemingly turned.”

After news of the meeting spread, Bennett’s office contacted the Jordanians and told them it was not responsible for the leak, Israel’s Kan news said.

A spokesman for the Jordanian Embassy in the United States declined a request for comment on the matter.

Ties with Jordan have suffered in recent years, with Netanyahu accused of neglecting the relationship. Over the last few years, Jordan has cut off Israeli access to two farming enclaves leased as part of the 1994 peace deal between the countries, and has been a leading voice against Israeli actions on the Temple Mount.

Earlier this year, tensions burst into the open after Amman delayed a plane that was slated to bring Netanyahu to the United Arab Emirates, ostensibly in response to Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein scotching a trip to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, due to disagreements over security arrangements.

The then-Israeli premier, who was forced to cancel his trip to Abu Dhabi, attempted to shut down Israeli airspace to Jordanian flights in revenge, according to reports.

Jordanians carry a model of the Dome of the Rock shrine during a demonstration, called for by the Islamic Action Front, in Amman following Friday prayers on July 21, 2017, to protest against new Israeli security measures implemented at the holy site, which include metal detectors and cameras, following an attack that killed two Israeli policemen the previous week. (AFP/Khalil Mazraawi)

During Operation Guardian of the Walls in May, the Jordanian Parliament called unanimously to expel Israel’s ambassador to Amman, in protest of Israeli “crimes” against Palestinians.

Abdullah said at the time that “Israel’s provocative actions against the Palestinians led to the current escalation and added more tension to the region.”

Abdullah is slated to meet with United States President Joe Biden at the White House on July 19. According to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, the two will discuss “Jordan’s leadership role in promoting peace and stability in the region.”

AP contributed to this report.

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