In Jerusalem, new envoys from Cairo and Amman recommit to peace with Israel

Hosted by President Rivlin, Ghassan Majali of Jordan and Khaled Azmi of Egypt urge Israel to reach peace with the Palestinians as well

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Incoming Jordanian Ambassador to Israel Ghassan Majali inspects an honor guard during a ceremony for new ambassadors at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, November 8, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Incoming Jordanian Ambassador to Israel Ghassan Majali inspects an honor guard during a ceremony for new ambassadors at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, November 8, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The incoming ambassadors of Jordan and Egypt on Thursday recommitted to their respective countries’ peace agreements with Israel, while stressing the need to achieve progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Both Ghassan Majali of Jordan and Khaled Azmi of Egypt handed their letters of credence to President Reuven Rivlin in his Jerusalem residence, officially taking up their positions.

In separate meetings with the two envoys, Rivlin hailed the peace deal with Israel as an anchor of regional stability, but expressed the wish for warmer relations with the Jordanian and Egyptian peoples as well as with their governments.

Both envoys lauded the peace agreements and said there was a need for Israel to also reach an arrangement with the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

“Our peace treaty stands as a pillar of stability in the Middle East,” Azmi said in unprepared remarks.

Majali, who previously served as the Jordanian ambassador to Spain, said Jordan was “look[ing] forward during this coming year to witness a breakthrough in the peace process that will enable all parties to enjoy comprehensive, just and lasting peace.”

King Abdullah II “considers reaching peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis a cornerstone to peace and stability in our region and throughout the world,” Majali said in prepared remarks. He said the king considered Israeli-Palestinian peace a top priority.

The arrival of Majali comes over a year after a shooting by a guard at the Israeli embassy in Amman threatened ties between the allies, with Jerusalem being forced to replace its ambassador.

Israelis have also expressed jitters over the future of the peace treaty after King Abdullah said last month he will terminate an annex of the 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty that allowed Israelis access to two small agricultural areas.

The Jordan river can be seen in the Jordan valley area called Naharayim, or Baqura in Arabic, in northern Israel, October 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Naharayim, located in Israel’s north, and Tzofar, in the southern Arava desert, are in Jordanian territory. But since Israelis had been working there for decades, the 1994 peace treaty stipulated that they could continue to access the land for 25 years, recognizing Jordanian sovereignty but also “Israeli private land ownership rights and property interests.”

Jerusalem and Amman are about to enter negotiations over the matter, as stipulated by the peace treaty, but Jordan has made plain that it will retake the two areas.

Neither Majali or Rivlin mentioned the upcoming Israeli-Jordanian negotiations over the small parcels of land.

Incoming Jordanian Ambassador to Israel Ghassan Majali speaks with President Rivlin in his Jerusalem residence, November 8, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Jordan is the state with the longest border with Israel, Rivlin said. He also mentioned bilateral projects regarding water management and tourism, calling for more cooperation in various areas.

He called relations between the countries “really strong.”

“I hope,” he added, “that we can find a way to let the whole Jordanian people understand that we are neighbors and we would like to live together. Because as all of us know — we are not doomed to live together. It’s our destiny to live together.”

He also acknowledged “differences of opinion between us” and emphasized the need to “bring to an end to the tragedy between us and the Palestinians.”

Azmi, who previously served as the director of the counterterrorism unit in the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, also stressed the need to bring about “a lasting, just and comprehensive” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He acknowledged “differences of opinion” with Israel as part of every relationship, but stressed that “we in Egypt remain committed to the peace, remain committed to bringing peace, not only to our two countries but also to the whole region, and this is what we’re working tirelessly to achieve.”

Egyptians are proud of their history but also excited about their future, the new ambassador said, describing the “new Egypt” as a country that wants to serve as a “model for other states in the Middle East, a model of acceptance of the other, a model of tolerance of coexistence.”

Incoming Jordanian Ambassador to Israel Ghassan Majali inspects an honor guard during a ceremony for new ambassadors at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, November 8, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“I come here today not only as a representative of my state and government, but as a representative of my nation that has been the cradle of civilization,” he said.

Sitting next to Azmi, Rivlin thanked Egypt for its role in the efforts to restore calm to the Gaza border area.

Without the “determination” of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, Israel and Gaza might find themselves in a situation leading to war, Rivlin said.

Earlier on Thursday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly accepted Cairo’s efforts to achieve an initial “period of calm” between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

According to the report, Sissi told Abbas that after calm is achieved, Egypt will move forward on efforts to reach reconciliation between Hamas and the PA’s Fatah movement and bring the the West Bank and the Gaza Strip back under unified rule.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi meeting in Sharm al-Sheikh on November 3, 2018. (Credit: Wafa)

Egypt is “very important to the stability of the region, a region that is very unstable,” Rivlin told the new ambassador.

“I really think that we have to find a way to let the Egyptian people understand us and know us, and for the Israeli people to understand you and know you,” he said.

“In the last 40 years we did a lot to stabilize the region, but we really have the task to bring an understanding between the Egyptian people and the Israeli people.”

Also on Thursday, Rivlin welcomed new ambassadors from Croatia, Mongolia and the Czech Republic.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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