Jordanian ambassador said to warn he could be recalled if annexation goes ahead

Amman reportedly also threatening to send Israeli envoy home, close embassy in Tel Aviv, freeze lucrative gas deal, and scale back border security

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

Jordanian Ambassador Ghassan Majali has been warning diplomatic circles that if Israel goes ahead with its planned extension of sovereignty to areas of the West Bank, his country may recall him from Tel Aviv in protest, Army Radio reported Wednesday.

However, returning Majali may be only the first of more significant measures Amman is considering, the station said.

Under a coalition deal between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Gantz signed last month, the government can pursue annexation of all the settlements and the Jordan Valley — the 30 percent of the West Bank allocated to Israel under the Trump administration peace plan — from July 1. The Trump administration has indicated it will not oppose Netanyahu’s declared plans to do so, providing Israel accepts its Peace to Prosperity plan, which conditionally provides for a Palestinian state on the remaining 70% of the territory.

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

While the kingdom has in the past recalled its ambassador during spats with Israel, it is now mulling further steps it could take.

Other measures under consideration are freezing relations — but not severing them — sending the Israeli ambassador home, closing the Jordanian embassy in Tel Aviv, cutting off contact, freezing a lucrative gas deal, and scaling back security along the border with Israel, which runs through the Jordan Valley, the report said.

Under the terms of the peace deal between the countries, both sides are committed to preventing cross-border attacks, but the Jordanians, who have a more significant security presence on their side of the boundary, are mulling reducing enforcement, the station reported.

Israel’s first envoy to Jordan, former ambassador Oded Eran, told Army Radio that the Jordanians “will certainly take out their ambassador and freeze relations, but there are things that they cannot do.”

Eran assessed that the gas deal and cooperation on water are unlikely to be touched, but security work could be impacted.

“On the Israeli side of the border there are not many forces and most of the work is done on the other side,” he said .

The $10 billion deal natural gas deal is expected to provide 45 billion cubic meters of Israeli gas to Jordan over the next 15 years. Despite popular opposition in Jordan to the agreement between the kingdom’s National Electric Power Co. and Texas-based Noble Energy, the gas began flowing in January.

Noble Energy and Israel’s Delek Group are, among others, partners in the newly operational Leviathan gas field off Israel’s Mediterranean coast.

The kingdom has vociferously objected the annexation, with King Abdullah II telling US lawmakers last week that it was “unacceptable.”

Abdullah spoke with US senators and emphasized the kingdom’s commitment to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

“Any unilateral Israeli measure to annex lands in the West Bank is unacceptable and undermines the prospects of achieving peace and stability in the region,” the royal court said in a statement about Abdullah’s message to the lawmakers.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II, reviews an honor guard before giving a speech to Parliament in Amman, Jordan, November 10, 2019. (Raad Adayleh/AP)

Abdullah, who has previously hinted that Jordan could tear up the peace deal with Israel if the plans go ahead, has reportedly refused to take phone calls from Netanyahu.

The Palestinians have rejected the US peace plan, and earlier this month said they had submitted a counter-proposal for a demilitarized Palestinian state to the Middle East peacemaking Quartet — the US, EU, UN and Russia.

Majali, the Jordanian ambassador, was recalled to Amman on October 30, 2019, to protest Israel’s detainment of two Jordanian nationals. He returned to Tel Aviv weeks later.

While security ties between the Israel and Jordan have flourished, political relations have soured recently over a number of matters, including Netanyahu’s pledge to annex the Jordan Valley.

Jordan, which has a large population of Palestinian expatriates, 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, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

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