Jordan considered downgrading its diplomatic ties with Israel in the wake of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s public promise during the run-up to last month’s Knesset election to annex the Jordan Valley, backing down only after King Abdullah II concluded the declaration was most likely a pre-election stunt, according to a television report on Saturday.
According to the Channel 13 report, which cited an anonymous Israeli official with ties to senior Jordanians, one of the options that was considered and ultimately discarded was the recalling of Ambassador to Israel Ghassan Majali.
Amman reacted harshly in the wake of Netanyahu’s announcement. The speaker of the country’s lower house of parliament declared that annexation could put the peace treaty with Israel “at stake” while Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi blasted Netanyahu’s comments as a “dangerous escalation.” According to several analysts, Israeli leaders’ talk of extending sovereignty into the West Bank revived Jordanian fears that their country will again be considered an “alternative homeland” for Palestinians.
Saturday marked the 25th anniversary of the 1994 Israel-Jordan “Treaty of Peace,” which ended decades of war and hostility between the two nations but neither country took steps to mark the occasion. Diplomatic relations, generally characterized as a cold peace, have deteriorated significantly in recent years.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday hailed the milestone.
“Today marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Peace between the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the State of Israel, an agreement that began a tradition of peaceful and respectful cooperation that continues today,” said Pompeo.
“We take this opportunity to praise the enduring efforts of our two allies and friends to find common ground and build a productive and stable relationship for the mutual benefit of the Jordanian and Israeli people.”
Tensions between Israel and Jordan have mounted over such issues as the contested status of Jerusalem and its holy sites, stalled peace talks with the Palestinians, and the 2017 shooting of two Jordanian citizens by an Israeli embassy guard in Amman, which ignited a diplomatic crisis. Jordan’s King Abdullah II also announced last year he would not renew part of the 1994 peace treaty that granted Israel use of two small agricultural areas along the border.
In August, Jordanian lawmakers urged their government to kick Israel’s ambassador out of the kingdom and “review” the peace treaty with the Jewish state following violence on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
As gloomy as the political-diplomatic relationship may be — King Abdullah reportedly refused to meet Netanyahu earlier this summer; their last public meeting took place in 2014 — security and intelligence cooperation between Amman and Jerusalem is solid.
Oded Eran, who was Israel’s ambassador to Jordan in 1997-2000, described security ties as “excellent.”
“They are the strongest ties between Jordan and Israel. The main reason is because they face shared threats like Islamic extremism and terrorism,” Eran said in a phone interview, adding that security relations between the two have been “impacted less by political considerations.”