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Jordan said to warn Israel of harsh response to even minimal annexation

Amman has reportedly made clear to Jerusalem, US and European countries that it opposes any sovereignty move; Trump envoy Berkowitz to meet Monday with Netanyahu, Gantz, Ashkenazi

Jordan's King Abdullah delivers his speech at the European parliament, in Strasbourg, eastern France, January 15, 2020. (Jean-Francois Badias/AP)
Jordan's King Abdullah delivers his speech at the European parliament, in Strasbourg, eastern France, January 15, 2020. (Jean-Francois Badias/AP)

Jordan has reportedly made clear to Israel that it will not accept even a limited annexation of West Bank land and will respond to any such move in the same way it would react to the unilateral annexation of all settlements and the Jordan Valley, as initially intended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Jordan has conveyed this uncompromising message to Jerusalem via several channels, Channel 13 reported Sunday evening, citing unnamed Israeli officials.

The report said one of those channels was a meeting last week between King Abdullah II and the visiting Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, who asked him how Amman would react to a limited Israeli annexation of several settlements or of settlement blocs from July 1.

The report said the Hashemite Kingdom has stressed this point also to the United States and to several European countries.

A similar stance has been expressed recently by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who has threatened a harsh response if Israel annexes even an “inch.”

Jordan has threatened to abrogate or downgrade its 1994 peace treaty with Israel if the annexation goes ahead and Abdullah is said to be so infuriated at Israel’s intentions that he has stopped accepting calls from Netanyahu.

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, left, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, center, and then-Tourism Minister Yariv Levin during a meeting to discuss mapping extension of Israeli sovereignty to areas of the West Bank, held in the Ariel settlement, February 24, 2020. (David Azagury/US Embassy Jerusalem)

Under a coalition deal between Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz signed last month, the government can pursue annexation of all 132 settlements and the Jordan Valley — the 30 percent of the West Bank allocated to Israel under the Trump administration’s peace plan — from July 1. The plan also conditionally provides for a Palestinian state on the remaining 70% of the territory.

Avi Berkowitz, left, US President Donald Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, leaves the US mission to the United Nations after attending a luncheon for members of the Security Council, February 7, 2020 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

There have been reports that Israel is considering a more limited annexation move to claim just settlement areas close to Jerusalem. Ynet reported that one idea discussed is adding the city of Ma’ale Adumim to the Jerusalem municipal area.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi has said that Israel will not annex the Jordan Valley, according to a television report last Wednesday evening.

Meanwhile, Hebrew-language media reported Sunday that Netanyahu, Gantz and Ashkenazi would meet Monday with Avi Berkowitz, US President Donald Trump’s peace envoy, to discuss annexation moves.

Gantz is expected to tell Berkowitz any Israeli move would have to be the first step of a wider diplomatic move that fully accords with the principles of the Trump plan, including an eventual Palestinian state, Channel 13 reported Sunday night.

Vision for Peace Conceptual Map published by the Trump Administration on January 28, 2020.

The Trump envoy flew to Israel on Friday after the White House held three days of talks on whether to back annexation, with a US official saying that no final decision was made. US Ambassador David Friedman, who flew back to Washington for the annexation meetings, returned to Israel with Berkowitz along with the National Security Council’s Israel and Palestinian affairs director Scott Leith, who also sits on the joint mapping committee tasked with turning the “conceptual” maps included in January’s Trump plan into highly detailed territorial maps.

Channel 13 said Berkowitz held a first session of talks with Netanyahu on Saturday night. It said the assessment in Israel is that the US “is hitting the brakes rather than gas,” and would prefer Netanyahu to restrict himself to a “limited” move and to “weigh the implications.”

The Dar al-Hayat Arabic newspaper claimed Friday that Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner had advised Netanyahu not to hurry ahead with unilateral annexation, because of the consequences for Israeli ties in the region. There was no confirmation of the report, which quoted an unnamed American official.

The Times of Israel reported earlier this month that the White House was “highly unlikely” to green light Israeli annexation by July 1, that more work was needed on the mapping of the territories, and that Berkowitz and Kushner would likely first come to Jerusalem to discuss outstanding issues.

Trump himself was not reported to have participated in last week’s White House meetings. His adviser Kellyanne Conway said on Wednesday the US president would soon have a “big announcement” about Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank.

US President Donald Trump, left, turns to give a pen to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, at the White House in Washington, March 25, 2019 after signing the official proclamation formally recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights. From left, White House adviser Jared Kushner, then US special envoy Jason Greenblatt, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (AP/Susan Walsh)

Concerned about the collateral damage that could follow from allowing Israel to move ahead with its plan, Washington is reportedly considering backing the annexation of only a handful of settlements close to Jerusalem.

“Ultimately, as the team approaches this thought of annexation, the main thing going through our heads is, ‘Does this in fact help advance the cause of peace?’ And therefore that is what will help drive a lot of the discussion,” a senior Trump administration official told Reuters in a report last week.

The prospect of unilateral annexation has been condemned internationally, with European and Arab states, as well as senior members of the US Democratic Party, warning the Israeli government against the move.

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