King Abdullah: Israeli-Jordanian relations are at ‘an all-time low’
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King Abdullah: Israeli-Jordanian relations are at ‘an all-time low’

Jordan’s monarch says problems in relationship partially due to Israel’s domestic issues; says there can be no Israel-Palestinian peace without active US involvement

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Jordan's King Abdullah II pictured at the US Capitol in Washington, on March 13, 2019. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)
Jordan's King Abdullah II pictured at the US Capitol in Washington, on March 13, 2019. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)

Jordan’s King Abdullah II said that relations between Jordan and Israel, which fought two wars before signing a landmark peace treaty 25 years ago, are now at their worst point ever.

“The Jordanian-Israeli relationship is at an all time low,” Abdullah said Thursday at an event in New York City hosted by The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a US think tank.

Recent weeks have seen Amman recall its ambassador to Israel, no joint ceremony marking the quarter-century anniversary of the peace agreement and the termination of special arrangements that allowed Israeli farmers to easily access plots of land inside Jordan.

“Part of it is because of the Israeli domestic matters,” Abdullah said, in an apparent reference to the political gridlock in Jerusalem which could lead to a third election in less than a year.

“We are hoping Israel will decide its future — whether it is in the next several weeks or three months,” Abdullah said in an edited video of his remarks that was posted on the Royal Hashemite Court’s YouTube page on Friday night.

Later in his talk, Abdullah said: “The problems that we have had with Israel [are] bilateral… Now I hope, whatever happens in Israel over the next two or three months, we can get back to talking to each other on simple issues that we haven’t been able to talk about for the past two years.”

In the video, he did not clarify which “simple issues” Israel and Jordan have been unable to discuss over the past two years. The bilateral ties between the countries span trade, water, agriculture, tourism, natural gas and many other issues.

Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab states that have formal peace treaties and diplomatic relations with Israel.

While security ties between the Israel and Jordan have flourished, political relations have soured recently over a number of matters including Netanyahu’s pledge in September to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank, if he is given another term in office.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu points at a map of the Jordan Valley as he gives a statement, promising to extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea area, in Ramat Gan on September 10, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

Jordan 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.

Jordan and Israel also recently went through a diplomatic spat after the Jewish state arrested two Jordanian citizens in August and September. Israeli security authorities held Heba al-Labadi, 32, and Abdel Rahman Miri, 29, for approximately two months under administrative detention for suspected terrorist activity.

Administrative detention is a measure that allows Israel to detain suspects for months at a time without indicting them or presenting details of the accusations against them.

Just over a week after Amman recalled Ghassan Majali, its ambassador in Tel Aviv, in late October, Israel returned the two Jordanian nationals to the Hashemite Kingdom.

Raslan Mahajna, Labadi and Miri’s lawyer, said Israeli authorities had suspected Labadi and Miri of maintaining ties to terror groups. He said both of his clients denied the suspicions.

Earlier this month, two annexes in the peace agreement — which had created special arrangements for Israeli farmers and their employees to work lands in the northern Naharayim and southern Tzofar border enclaves — were ended.

A picture taken from the Israeli side of the border shows Jordanian soldiers raising the national flag ahead of a ceremony at the Jordan Valley site of Naharayim, November 10, 2019. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

For some 25 years, Jordan and Israel had implemented the annexes of the peace deal for the parcels of land, which are Jordanian territories. In late 2018, however, Jordanian officials informed their Israeli counterparts of the kingdom’s intention to end the agreements.

In his Thursday remarks, Abdullah also eschewed the notion that peace could be achieved between Israel and the Palestinians without the backing of the US.

“Anybody who is in the international community who says that we can have peace between Israelis and Palestinians without the support of America doesn’t know our region and the role that America plays,” he said. “We all need America to bring both sides together.”

Since shortly after the Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017 and announced the US would move its embassy in the Jewish state to the city, the Palestinians have said they will not work with any peace process, in which the US is the sole, dominant interlocutor.

In addition to its moves related to Jerusalem, the Trump administration has undertaken several other measures seen as marginalizing the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership, cutting hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians and the UN agency that supports Palestinian refugees, closing the PLO representative office in Washington and most recently declaring settlements do not violate international law.

Trump administration officials have also consistently declined to endorse a two-state solution.

Abdullah added that the peace process was currently on hold, suggesting that it could not be revived until after a new Israeli government is formed.

“Unfortunately, we are in pause mode. As you well know, Israelis have gone through a series of elections. We may be seeing another three months of elections,” he said. “So as a result, we are all in pause mode and we haven’t been able to get people back around the table, talking to each other.”

The last time Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu met formally for negotiations was in September 2010 in Jerusalem.

The Jordanian king also said that Israel’s full integration into the Middle East requires a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Israel’s future is being a part of the Middle East, but the problem is that is that is never going to happen 100% unless we solve the Palestinian problem,” he stated.

“There is a lot of people in our part of the world who can say behind closed doors: ‘Do whatever you want.’ But in reality it is a sensitive or an emotional issue. Unless we can solve the Israeli-Palestinian issue, we will never have the full integration that all of us deserve,” he remarked.

 

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