Jordan king said to snub Netanyahu, refuse his calls over annexation push

Abdullah also refuses to schedule meeting with Defense Minister Gantz to discuss Israeli plans, according to Palestinian report; PM said to tell reservists he’ll annex in stages

File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Jordan's King Abdullah II, left, at the Royal Palace in Amman, Jordan, on January 16, 2014. (AP/Yousef Allan, Jordanian Royal Palace)
File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Jordan's King Abdullah II, left, at the Royal Palace in Amman, Jordan, on January 16, 2014. (AP/Yousef Allan, Jordanian Royal Palace)

Jordan’s King Abdullah II has reportedly refused to take phone calls from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, amid seething anger in the Hashemite kingdom over Israeli plans to annex portions of the West Bank.

The report by the Palestinian Ma’an news agency would seem to mark a new low in Israel-Jordan ties, which have been tested repeatedly in recent years and which Amman has threatened to cut off if Israel goes ahead.

There was no confirmation from official Jordanian or Israeli sources.

According to the report, which cited a Jordanian official, Amman is also refusing to set a date for a meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz to discuss the annexation plans and the Trump administration’s peace plan.

Gantz has sought to coordinate the move with a wider range of allies than the US, but Jordan has vociferously rejected annexation, with the king warning it could lead to a “massive conflict.”

Jordan is one of two Arab countries that has official diplomatic ties with Israel, along with Egypt.

Netanyahu has vowed to push ahead with plans to begin annexing swaths of the West Bank starting on July 1, under the US’s peace proposal, which envisions Israel holding onto some 30 percent of the West Bank.

The plans have threatened to upend years of diplomatic work forging quiet ties with Gulf states. On Friday, the United Arab Emirates’ influential ambassador to the US, Yousef al-Otaiba, warned in an op-ed published in an Israeli paper that Abu Dhabi would freeze normalization if annexation moves ahead.

Miri Regev, center, visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi with UAE officials on October 29, 2018. (Courtesy Chen Kedem Maktoubi)

Other Gulf states have remained mostly quiet about the plans.

An Israeli diplomatic official said Monday that ties with the Gulf would be set back by annexation moves.

“It’s obvious to us that the pace of relations between Israel and Gulf states will slow or be halted as a result of annexation,” the official told Army Radio.

Also Monday, Netanyahu reportedly acknowledged that the annexation of parts of the West Bank could happen in stages and not all at once.

Netanyahu made the comment during a meeting with senior IDF reserve officers who support annexation, according to Channel 13 news.

Quoting unnamed sources in the meeting, the report said Netanyahu told the reservists the US wants Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, the premier’s coalition partners, to be on board with any action. Netanyahu reportedly said he hasn’t reached an agreement with Gantz and Ashkenazi.

“Netanyahu said the conversation is now about how to carry out the move and he emphasized it depends on internal negotiations in the government,” one of the sources told the network.

A statement from Netanyahu’s office on the meeting said the premier touted the “historic opportunity” to extend sovereignty over West Bank territories.

Last week, Netanyahu told settler leaders he intends to annex settlements on July 1, but that annexing other lands allocated to Israel under the Trump peace plan will likely take more time.

Those remarks, confirmed by several participants in the meeting, appeared to mark the first time Netanyahu has admitted to long-reported delays by the joint US-Israeli team tasked with mapping out the further territories to be annexed, mainly in the Jordan Valley.

The Times of Israel was told earlier this month it was “highly unlikely” that the US would approve an Israeli move to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank by the July 1 date envisioned by Netanyahu.

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