Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi on Saturday said ties between Israel and Jordan were “at an all time low,” with Amman not fully reaping the “peace dividend” that was expected to accompany the establishment of diplomatic ties 25 years ago.
The comments, made at a security conference in Bahrain, echoed Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who said Thursday that relations are now at their worst point since the signing of the landmark peace treaty in 1994.
“We have not been able to achieve bilateral cooperation” on numerous issues, Safadi said, singling out to the long delayed Red Sea-Dead Sea pipeline project and Israeli measures limiting Jordanian exports to the West Bank.
“If you come and tell people there is a peace dividend, they ask you ‘where is it?’”
He also suggested Israel was not honoring arrangements concerning Christian and Muslim sites in Jerusalem’s Old City. Under the peace treaty, Israel recognized Abdullah as custodian of these sites.
“Day in [and] day out we are engaged with efforts to try and prevent violations of the status quo of those sites,” Safadi said, without elaborating.
Safadi criticized Israel’s continued military control over the West Bank and “unilateral Israeli measures” that he said were making a Palestinian state more difficult to establish, apparently referring to settlement construction.
“To achieve peace the occupation has to end,” he said, calling the two-state solution the “only viable option” to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Jordanian minister also bemoaned the lack of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in recent years.
“In the past two-three years, the peace process has been quite honestly dead,” he said.
Recent weeks have seen Amman recall its ambassador to Israel, no joint ceremony marking the quarter-century anniversary of the peace agreement and the termination of special arrangements that allowed Israeli farmers to easily access plots of land inside Jordan.
“Part of it is because of the Israeli domestic matters,” Abdullah said at an event in New York City, apparently referring to the political gridlock in Jerusalem which could lead to a third election in less than a year.
Later in his talk, Abdullah said: “The problems that we have had with Israel [are] bilateral… Now I hope, whatever happens in Israel over the next two or three months, we can get back to talking to each other on simple issues that we haven’t been able to talk about for the past two years.”
In the video, he did not clarify which “simple issues” Israel and Jordan have been unable to discuss over the past two years. The bilateral ties between the countries span trade, water, agriculture, tourism, natural gas and many other issues.
Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab states that have formal peace treaties and diplomatic relations with Israel.
While security ties between the Israel and Jordan have flourished, political relations have soured recently over a number of matters including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge in September to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, if he is given another term in office.
Jordan has long supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which would include the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. The Hashemite Kingdom controlled the former two areas before their capture by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War but relinquished its claims over them in 1988.
In his remarks, the Jordanian king also said that Israel’s full integration into the Middle East requires a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Israel’s future is being a part of the Middle East, but the problem is that is that is never going to happen 100% unless we solve the Palestinian problem,” he stated.
“There is a lot of people in our part of the world who can say behind closed doors: ‘Do whatever you want.’ But in reality it is a sensitive or an emotional issue. Unless we can solve the Israeli-Palestinian issue, we will never have the full integration that all of us deserve,” he said.
Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.