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Gantz recently held secret meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah — report

Defense minister reportedly met with monarch in Jordan; Gantz criticized Netanyahu’s relationship with Amman last week; Ashkenazi said to have held meetings with counterpart

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

Defense Minister Benny Gantz recently met secretly with the king of Jordan, according to a Sunday report.

The Blue and White chief’s meeting with King Abdullah II took place in Jordanian territory, the Ynet news site reported, without citing sources.

The report did not give a precise date for the meeting.

On Friday, Gantz hinted at his contacts with Jordan, and criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s relationship with Amman, during a Zoom meeting with Blue and White party activists.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz during a visit to the Druze village of Julis in northern Israel, February 23, 2021 (David Cohen/Flash90)

“I think Jordan is a great asset to Israel, and I think that our relationship with Jordan could be 1,000 times better. Unfortunately, Netanyahu is an unwanted figure in Jordan, and his presence harms” relations between the countries, Gantz said.

“I have a continuous and ongoing connection with the Jordanian king and other senior Jordanian officials, and I know we can have great achievements,” he said.

“I believe that it’s possible to do one or two civilian projects each year with Jordan, and within 10 years up to 20 or 30 projects” to improve relations with the neighboring country, he said.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi also met twice in recent months with his Jordanian counterpart, Ynet reported.

Angering his coalition partners, Netanyahu repeatedly kept Gantz and Ashkenazi in the dark about his diplomatic moves with other countries last year, including his negotiations for the normalization deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, a later deal with Morocco and a secret trip to Saudi Arabia.

Jordan and Israel share strong security ties, but political relations have soured recently as Amman sparred with Jerusalem over Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which is under Jordanian custody, even as Israel moved closer to other Sunni Arab states.

Jordan, an important regional ally to both Israel and the United States, has long called for a two-state solution and the renewal of Israel-Palestinian peace talks, which have been frozen since 2014.

Abdullah publicly opposed Netanyahu’s push to annex parts of the West Bank last year, which the premier dropped as part of the agreement to normalize ties with the UAE.

While the king has not opposed the normalization accords between Israel and Bahrain and between Israel and the UAE, the Jordanian government has yet to fully embrace them.

Abdullah reportedly refused to take phone calls from Netanyahu last year as he seethed over the annexation push.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets actress Carmit Mesilati Kaplan, right, during a visit to the Khan theater ahead of the re-opening of the culture sector, in Jerusalem on February 23, 2021. (Ohad Zwigenberg/Pool Photo via AP)

Abdullah said in 2019 that relations between Israel and Jordan were “at an all-time low,” after a series of incidents that prompted Amman to recall its ambassador to Israel.

That year, Jordan terminated special arrangements that allowed Israeli farmers to easily access plots of land inside Jordan, and the two countries did not hold a joint ceremony marking the quarter-century anniversary of their peace agreement.  Israel’s arrest of two Jordanian citizens for suspected terrorism also caused a minor diplomatic spat.

Jordan is also an ally to the US and Abdullah was the first Arab leader to speak to then-US President-elect Joe Biden following the election. Biden told the monarch that he hopes to cooperate on “supporting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Jordan and Israel have been at peace since 1994 and have full diplomatic relations. Despite Jordan’s majority-Palestinian population — many of whom do not support the peace treaty — the two governments cooperate closely on security and economic issues.

Last month, Abdullah criticized Israel for not vaccinating Palestinians.

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