Jordan's King Abdullah II revealed on Sunday in an interview with CNN for the first time that he had indeed secretly met with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett earlier this month, as was reported in the Israeli media.The king also confirmed in the interview that he met with Defense Minister Benny Gantz in the weeks after the formation of Israel's new government.
During the interview on Sunday, CNN's Fareed Zakaria asked Abdullah about his opinion on Israel's new government, stressing that Bennett has supported annexing the West Bank and expressed opposition to a two-state solution.
"Coming to the US as, I think, the first leader from that part of the world, it was important to unify messaging because there's a lot of challenges...so it was important for me not only to meet with the Palestinian leadershp after a war, which I did with Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas). I met the prime minister. I met General (Benny) Gantz because we really have to get people back to the table."
Abdullah did not specify if he was referring to the Israeli prime minister or Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, although Israeli media took his statement as referring to Bennett, considering recent reports that Bennett and Abdullah had met earlier in July.
The secret meeting with Bennett was reported a little over two weeks ago, as the two countries were finalizing a major water deal.
Such meetings between former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and King Abdullah were rare and had not happened for a number of years due to rising tensions between the two countries and more specifically, between the two leaders.
At the meeting, Bennett and Abdullah reportedly agreed that the two countries must heal that rift, using the water deal as a first step in the right direction.
According to Israeli reports, a secret meeting between Abdullah and Gantz happened in late February, as an attempt to boost the latter's chances of besting Netanyahu in the election — which was set to take place later that month — echoing the reasons for his 2018 meeting with then-Labor Party chairman, Avi Gabbay.
In the CNN interview however, King Abdullah II said the meeting took place after the new government's formation.
While Abdullah said that the new Israeli government may "not be the most ideal government to, in my view, a two-state solution," he was still working to get the Israelis and Palestinians engaging again. The king added that he came out of the meeting with the Israeli and Palestinian officials feeling "very encouraged."
"I think we've seen, in the past couple of weeks, not only better understanding between Israel and Jordan, but the voices coming out of both Israel and Palestine that we need to move forward and reset that relationship," said Abdullah to CNN.
Abdullah also expressed concern about Operations Guardian of the Walls, saying that he thought it was "different."
"Since 1948, this was the first time I feel that a civil war happened in Israel. When you look at the villages and the towns, Arab-Israelis and Israelis got into conflict," said the king, adding that Jordan had discussed with Israel how to invest in the livelihood of the Palestinians.
"If they lose hope and, God forbid, another cycle, the next war is going to be even more damaging," warned Abdullah. "Nobody ever loses in these conflicts, but this last one, there were no victors."
“It is possible to advance ties” with Jordan, but Netanyahu’s “presence interferes with the advancement of [the] relations,” Gantz said in a Zoom call with Blue and White activists in March.Tovah Lazaroff, Lahav Harkov, and Omri Nahmias contributed to this article.