Questioning commitment: 8 things to know for October 23
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Questioning commitment: 8 things to know for October 23

Jordan says no thanks to talks over keeping land leases with Israel, as some say Jerusalem has only itself to blame; and Netanyahu’s best bud ever (Trump) may be losing faith

A border gate is closed on a bridge leading from Israel to Jordan, in the Jordan valley area called Baqura, or Naharayim, Jordanian territory that was leased to Israel under the 1994 peace agreement between the two countries, on October 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
A border gate is closed on a bridge leading from Israel to Jordan, in the Jordan valley area called Baqura, or Naharayim, Jordanian territory that was leased to Israel under the 1994 peace agreement between the two countries, on October 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

1. Dunked by Jordan: It’s only a couple of hundred acres, but the diplomat fallout from Jordan’s decision to end leases for two swaths of land used by Israel is beginning to become clearer, and it’s not necessarily all positive.

  • Alan Baker, a former senior Foreign Ministry official who was involved in the 1994 peace treaty, tells ToI’s Raphael Ahren that there’s a 50-50 chance Jerusalem can convince Amman to change course.
  • “There are two sides. The Jordanian government, public and security establishment all enjoy various aspects of the peaceful relationship, and they want to continue to enjoy it and even enhance it. Hence, there’s plenty of room to discuss the nature of the bilateral relationship,” Baker says.
  • Others also tell Ahren that Israel has leverage and it’s not necessarily a done deal, warning that Israelis could end up approaching future agreements skeptically if Jordan indeed cancels.
  • But hours later Jordanian foreign Minister Ayman Safadi tells local TV that sure, they’ll negotiate with the Israelis, but only over how to cancel the deal, everything else is off the table.
  • A Jordanian source is quoted telling Haaretz that “Amman cannot go back on the announcement, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowing Israel would hold talks with Amman on the matter.”

2. Israel is not necessarily taking it sitting down, but maybe it should. The populist Yedioth Ahronoth tabloid runs a front page headline reading “Jordanian absurdity,” and noting that several ministers are angered over the fact that Israel is still upping the amount of water it’s diverting from the Jordan River for Jordan’s use, even as it demands this land back.

  • Others tell the paper, however, that the fault lies with Israel, which has not been keeping to its commitments in developing water-sharing mechanism, including the vaunted Red-Dead canal boondoggle: “They do what they want and harm the agreements with Jordan again and again,” an Israeli diplomatic source says about his own government.

3. What does it mean: Of course, Israel’s ties with Jordan run much deeper and are much more complicated than just water and farmland access issues.

  • In Israel Hayom, columnist Nadav Shragai guesses that Israel will be asked to make concessions on the Temple Mount as part of any talks that may arise over the annex.
  • “Responding to the not new Jordanian demand for a fifth minaret on the Temple Mount, and lowering the cap on the number of Jews who can visit the site, will be another significant blow to Israel’s already limited sovereignty over the mount,” he writes, though without explaining why he thinks Amman is using the leases as leverage for Temple Mount concessions.
  • Haaretz’s lead editorial calls Jordan’s move a warning from Amman “that nothing can be taken for granted in its relations with Jerusalem.”
  • In the same paper, analyst Zvi Bar’el says the move could be aimed solely at taking Netanyahu (and US President Donald Trump) down a notch, due to anger over Israel’s policies and that Amman been sidelined in peace efforts.
  • “What is undeniable is the close link between, on the one hand, Israel’s policy in the territories and Washington’s attitude towards Jordan and the Palestinians, and, on the other hand, Jordan’s willingness to go beyond the written language of the agreements with it,” he writes.

4. Losing Trump: Just as jarring yet not unexpected is a report from Israel’s Channel 10 news and Axios that Trump is starting to get fed up with Netanyahu.

  • Correspondent Barak Ravid (who works for both outlets) reports that Trump told French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly that he could be tough on Netanyahu just like he is on the Palestinians, mentioning $5 billion he says the US gives Israel yearly (inflating the number by $1.2 billion.)
  • According to Ravid, Macron told Trump he thinks Netanyahu isn’t serious about negotiating a peace deal, and Trump said he is reaching the same conclusion.
  • The timing of the conversation dovetails with a meeting between Trump and Netanyahu three days later in which the president endorsed the two-state solution for the first time. (The administration later backpedaled somewhat, probably after Netanyahu changed Trump’s mind.)
  • Responding to the report the White House sent ToI a statement saying that “The President believes that the Prime Minister is committed to pursuing a comprehensive and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”
  • A couple of hours later, it sent another ToI reporter another statement, which tacked on “He has faith in the Prime Minister’s efforts. “
  • No matter which statement you go with, neither of them contain denials.

5. Bibi the fudger: There’s also no official Israeli comment on the report, though plenty of opposition lawmakers seize on it.

  • “Trump also understands that Netanyahu lies — his fearfulness is endangering our future,” Stav Shaffir says, according to Channel 10.
  • “Now Trump has also figured out who he is making deals with, Bibi the foot-dragger and fudger,” Eitan Cabel writes on Twitter.
  • Hours before the report, Jared Kushner made a rare public appearance at a CNN panel, and seemed to put the Israelis and Palestinians on equal footing regarding peace efforts, which could be seen as a shift in the administration’s stance.
  • “The status quo between Israel and the Palestinians is not acceptable. The situation is only getting worse. At some point, the leaders will have to take a bold step and make compromise. We hope to find leaderships that are ready to do so,” he said.

6. We see you, Iran: Not surprisingly the stories get no play in pro-Trump and pro-Netanyahu Israel Hayom, which leads off instead with Israeli accusations that Iran is building missile factories in Iraq and Hezbollah is still posing as an environmental NGO to monitor and stash arms in posts near Israel’s border.

  • Columnist Yoav Limor writes that both revelations are designed to signal to Iran and its proxies that Israel knows what Tehran is doing, in the hopes it will pull back to avoid a military strike.
  • “In the past Israel has exposed Hezbollah’s activities along the border, and afterwards the group lowered its profile, until recently. One can assume that Israel is hoping after this publication Hezbollah will retreat from these posts.”
  • The IDF admitted to reporters that it had not seen any actual weapons in the observation posts, but the “ military equipment and infrastructure” were enough to set it off and have it alert UNIFIL peacekeepers.
  • In its typically laconic style, UNIFIL denies to ToI that there is any Hezbollah presence where it should not be.
  • “UNIFIL has not observed any unauthorized armed persons at the locations or found any basis to report a violation of resolution 1701 but continues to monitor activities closely, a spokesperson tells Judah Ari Gross.

7. Whodunit, or did we already know? As it does every year around this time of year, the anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s death, talk of inciting behavior has ramped up, especially after a combative Knesset memorial Sunday in which Rabin’s granddaughter Noa Rothman accused the current government of increasing factionalism and the right-wing of inciting against her grandfather.

  • In what he terms an expose, Haaretz’s Nehemia Shtrasler reveals that the person behind posters depicting Rabin as an SS officer a month before he was killed was actually a 16-year-old kid from Jerusalem, and not the Shin Bet or far-right activist Avishai Raviv, previously thought to be behind the campaign.
  • Shtrasler writes that the arrest of the teen and other minors involved has been kept under wraps because they were not adults, but the court has now finally agreed to ungag part of the case on the condition that the teen’s identity is not revealed.
  • Some are pointing out, however, that the info is not new and has been publicly available through the state archives and online for years.
  • Makor Rishon correspondent Ariel Schnabel points out on Twitter that protocols from the Shamgar Commission found that the ones who put up the posters were two brothers named as Mendy and Schneur, and somehow they got Avishai Raviv’s name mixed in along the way when he wanted to claim credit as well.
  • Another Twitter user named Chagai Dotan notes that the next part of the protocols is testimony from a principal in the settlement of Kedumim who speaks about the close bond between Raviv and actual Rabin assassin Yigal Amir.

8. Inciting hatred: The right’s fuming response to Rothman that she dared make the speech political and accuse the right of incitement has been met with equal fuming from the other side that they would dare question her.

  • Making the rounds since Sunday has been a video of Netanyahu at a 1995 rally where people chanted to kill Rabin and held up the Nazi signs.
  • “The part where he tells people not to kill Rabin is at 00:27,” a user remarks sarcastically.
  • In Yedioth, Ronen Shaked asks how low the right can go: “Control over commemorations and ceremonies will determine the historical narrative in the end, and the right wants the narrative to be edited so that it won’t include incitement, takeaways or politics.”
  • “These are days of distorting reality, rewriting history, no self-reflection, zero responsibility and lying as policy,” media pundit Tomer Persico writes on Twitter. “It’s a miserable time to be right-wing.”
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