Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Monday phoned Likud chief Benjamin Netanyahu to congratulate him on his election victory, the prime minister’s designate office said.
The statement on the call gave no further details and there was no official confirmation from Jordan. Netanyahu and Abdullah had a prickly relationship when the Likud leader was last in power, with ties between Amman and Jerusalem deteriorating significantly.
The call was Netanyahu’s latest with a foreign leader since his right-religious bloc won a majority of seats in the November 1 vote, amid international hand-wringing over his far-right coalition partners. Netanyahu’s office also said Monday that he received a congratulatory letter from Sudan’s military ruler, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.
During Netanyahu’s last stint as premier between 2009 and 2021, ties between Jerusalem and Amman deteriorated markedly, with Abdullah saying in 2019 that relations were “at an all-time low” after a series of incidents that prompted Jordan to recall its ambassador to Israel.
Notable spats included Netanyahu’s embrace of a security guard who was returned to Israel after shooting dead two Jordanian nationals — one of whom attacked him with a screwdriver — at the Israeli embassy residence in Amman in 2017, prompting an angry response from Jordan; and the Jordanian decision in March 2021 to block the then-Israeli prime minister from flying over Jordan en route to Abu Dhabi following a canceled visit to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount by Crown Prince Hussein.
The Temple Mount has frequently been a source of tension between Israel and Jordan, which under the 1994 peace treaty between the countries recognized the Jordanian monarch as custodian of the compound and other holy sites in the Old City. Along with East Jerusalem and the West Bank, Israel captured the Old City from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War.
According to a report last week, Jordanian officials warned that bilateral ties with Israel will suffer if the government that Netanyahu is expected to form tries to change the status quo arrangement on the flashpoint Temple Mount, which is the holiest place in Judaism and the site of the third holiest shrine in Islam.
Some lawmakers from Netanyahu’s presumptive coalition have pushed for Israel to assert its sovereignty over the Jerusalem holy site and allow greater Jewish freedom of religion. A Jordanian source quoted by the Kan public broadcaster singled out MK Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the extremist Otzma Yehudit party. Ben Gvir is seeking to be public security minister, which would give him control of the police, the body that enforces the ban on Jewish prayer.
Another cause of friction between Israel and Jordan during Netanyahu’s previous term was his vow to annex the Jordan Valley, which he later followed with a promise to extend Israeli sovereignty over other portions of the West Bank that were envisioned to be part of Israel under the Trump administration peace plan released in January 2020.
Netanyahu shelved that pledge months later as part of an agreement with the United Arab Emirates to establish diplomatic ties. The deal was the first of several in a series of US-backed agreements known as the Abraham Accords, which also saw Israel agree to normalize relations with Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.
Monday’s call with Abdullah came after Netanyahu spoke with several other leaders of Arab states that have ties with Israel, including UAE President and Abu Dhabi ruler Mohammed Bin Zayed, and Bahraini Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa.
The normalization process with Sudan has been largely frozen amid political turmoil in Khartoum that saw the military carry out a coup last year, ending a two-year power-sharing arrangement aimed at paving the way to civilian rule.
Nonetheless, military leader al-Burhan has expressed interest in pushing normalization and even visiting Israel.
In a message received Monday, al-Burhan congratulated Netanyahu and said he “expects to continue the cooperation between us to advance ties in all fields for the benefit of citizens in both countries,” according to Netanyahu’s office.
Netanyahu met with Burhan ahead of the agreement during a visit to Uganda in February 2020.
The incoming premier has not yet spoken with the leaders of Morocco or Egypt, which in 1979 became the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel.
Netanyahu was formally tasked with forming a government on Sunday and has been holding coalition negotiations with his ultra-Orthodox and far-right allies, who together with his Likud party will hold 64 of 120 seats in the next Knesset.