Gantz may visit Jordan amid tensions over Israel’s annexation plan — report

London-based Arabic newspaper says defense minister could make the trip to Amman to address the future of treaties if Jerusalem makes unilateral moves in West Bank

Defense Minister Benny Gantz attends a cabinet meeting of the new government at Chagall State Hall in the Knesset in Jerusalem on May 24, 2020. (Abir Sultan/ Pool/ AFP)
Defense Minister Benny Gantz attends a cabinet meeting of the new government at Chagall State Hall in the Knesset in Jerusalem on May 24, 2020. (Abir Sultan/ Pool/ AFP)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz may visit Jordan amid rising tensions between Jerusalem and Amman over Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank next month, a London-based Arabic newspaper reported.

According to the report in Rai al-Youm, the trip would include a visit to Amman. The report did not provide any sources for the information and there was no immediate confirmation Tuesday from Gantz’s office.

If the visit goes ahead, it would be Gantz’s first overseas trip since he became defense minister.

According to a Channel 12 news report on Monday, the Trump administration is disinclined to back Netanyahu’s repeatedly declared intention to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank unless the move is supported by Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alternate PM and Defense Minister Benny Gantz attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 7, 2020. (Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

The coalition deal signed between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and Gantz’s Blue and White allows the prime minister to begin moving forward with annexation on July 1, and he has promised to annex all the settlements and the Jordan Valley — some 30 percent of the West Bank. The parts of the West Bank that Israel would extend sovereignty over are those earmarked for it under US President Donald Trump’s peace plan.

Jordanian officials, including the kingdom’s prime minister and foreign minister, have threatened to reconsider their treaties and agreements with Israel in the event of annexation.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, listens to Jordan’s King Abdullah II, left, as they meet at the Royal Palace in Amman, Jordan on January 16, 2014. (AP/Yousef Allan, Jordanian Royal Palace)

Diplomatic relations between Amman and Jerusalem, signed in 1994 and generally characterized as a cold peace, have deteriorated significantly in the past few years, with no joint ceremony marking the quarter-century anniversary of the agreement between the two countries, and the recent termination of special arrangements that allowed Israeli farmers to easily access plots of land inside Jordan.

Amman also briefly recalled its ambassador to protest the arrests of two Jordanian nationals who were eventually released by Israel.

Jordan’s prime minister has warned that if Israel goes ahead with a plan to annex parts of the West Bank, the kingdom will review its peace agreement with Israel. Palestinian sources have reportedly said the kingdom could decide to cancel its peace accord with the Jewish state.

According to a report Saturday by Channel 13, Jordan will recall its ambassador back to Amman as a first step, if annexation goes ahead, and help the Palestinians work against Israel in international fora.

The report quoted unnamed sources who said that Jordan does not want to take concrete steps unless or until annexation is officially declared. But they said the kingdom has told the Palestinians that King Abdullah II “will not go silently through the annexation process.” Among the possible steps it might take are canceling the peace treaty, the sources reportedly said.

Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab states that have formal peace treaties and diplomatic relations with Israel.

In this February 18, 2020, photo, a view of the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Efraim on the hills of the Jordan Valley. (AP/Ariel Schalit)

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi last week warned against Israeli annexation, saying the move would lead to “confrontation, anarchy and hopelessness.”

“As part of the war on terror, we must act quickly to prevent Israel from annexing one-third of occupied Palestine and the consequences of this decision,” Safadi told an international summit discussing the Islamic State, according to Channel 13. “Instead, negotiations must be resumed in order to achieve piece on the basis of a two-state solution.”

The statement echoed comments by the Jordanian prime minister last month.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi at a November 11, 2019 press conference at the Jordanian foreign ministry (Screenshot)

“We will not accept unilateral Israeli moves to annex Palestinian lands and we would be forced to review all aspects of our relations with Israel,” Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz told Jordanian state news agency Petra in late May.

Razzaz made his statement days after King Abdullah warned in an interview with Der Spiegel that if Israel “really annexes the West Bank in July, it would lead to a massive conflict with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.”

Israel’s annexation plan has drawn a flurry of regional and international condemnations.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is reportedly set to come to Israel on Wednesday for an urgent visit to warn Netanyahu against it and to tell him the move will harm Israel’s ties with the European Union and with Germany, despite the importance of the relationship to Berlin.

However, Germany will not respond harshly to if Israel goes ahead with the plan, a diplomatic official in Jerusalem said Monday.

While annexation would likely cause a certain degree of damage to bilateral ties, Berlin has made plain that it does not plan to enact sanctions against the Jewish state or recognize a Palestinian state, the official said.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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