Security chiefs debate if Jordan will end peace if Israel annexes W. Bank

Abdullah did not explicitly threaten canceling the deal, but his warnings were far more strident than those he has issued in the past.

King of Jordan Abdullah II addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France January 15, 2020. (photo credit: VINCENT KESSLER/ REUTERS)
King of Jordan Abdullah II addresses the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France January 15, 2020.
Former top Israeli security chiefs gave contrary views to The Jerusalem Post on Sunday and Monday about the significance of implied threats by Jordan’s King Abdullah this weekend that he might rescind the peace treaty with Israel if it annexes the West Bank.
Abdullah did not explicitly threaten canceling the deal – part of what leaves ambiguity for the security chiefs to give differing views – but his warnings were far more strident than those he has issued in the past.
Former Mossad chief Efrayim Halevy, who is known to have been close to the Jordanian family for decades, told the Post on Sunday night that, “I think Israel would do well to listen carefully to what the King of Jordan said because the peace treaty is not only a matter of Jordanian interest, but also an Israeli interest."
He said that “Israel has a clear interest for a friendly border which is the longest border of Israel,” and which represents one of two “columns of peace” and quiet for Israel (there is also peace with Egypt) as opposed to the hostile border Israel has with Syria and Lebanon.
Halevy said that ignoring Abdullah’s warnings could begin a “slide on the slippery slope regarding which everyone can understand what the first stage is, but no one can predict” how badly things might deteriorate.
“To create a situation which jeopardizes or has the potential to jeopardize our eastern border… to take steps which have irrevocable consequences… is something the cabinet should not take lightly, but should seriously consult with all of the many actors in Israel concerned with defense and strategic issues,” said the former Mossad chief.
He also warned that it was a mis-prioritization to potentially initiate a new strategic crisis that could also lead to economic blowback from European and other countries at a time when Israel has “over one million unemployed, clear signs of social unrest in the country and a clear understanding that this situation will not disappear from our list of concerns” anytime soon.
In contrast, former national security council chief Yaakov Amidror generally did not think Jordan would completely end the peace treaty in response to a potential annexation move.
Regarding a Jordanian response, he told the Post on Monday, “I don’t know. I don’t think Jordan will want to harm security ties which strengthen them, because of annexation. I don’t think they will let terror come to their border [which could happen absent Israeli support.] They may limit some cooperation [with Israel] in a variety of areas,” but will probably not cancel the peace treaty entirely. 
Also, he said the question of annexing the West Bank is not limited to Jordan or one specific set of security issues.
Rather, he said, “it is an ideological and political decision - not merely a conceptual question for experts” who were not elected by the public.
Amidror rejected the idea of zeroing in on merely the impact on Israeli-Jordanian relations, saying it could impact relations with Arab countries, the Palestinian Authority, Europe, the US, China and many others, but that “it is not just a security issue – sovereignty is part of a different aspect of one’s worldview.”
The former national security council chief qualified these remarks, however, noting that “annexing the Jordan Valley versus annexing some part of Area C” could have different security implications.
He offered that the Jordan Valley was viewed for decades by security chiefs - at least going back to former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin - as crucial to be kept within Israeli sovereignty or at least Israeli security control.
In contrast, he said that annexing certain Jewish villages might have no security-specific impact.
Pressed about whether Israel would face less resistance from Jordan for annexing the West Bank if the move was made in tandem with granting the Palestinians the 70% of the West bank promised to them by the Trump plan, Halevy said, “it is too early to say - if there is no intention to engage the Palestinians in serious negotiations.”
He said there might be more hope if there were real bilateral negotiations with the Palestinians, but that, “I don’t think we should enter a process where only one side makes a proposal and the other side has the option of abiding by it or suffering the consequences.”
He added that, “the Trump plan provides for negotiations between us and the Palestinians,” and that the focus should be kept on those negotiations in good faith, rather than unilateral steps or threats of annexation.
In January 2019, former Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen expressed opposition to a full Palestinian state, which could lead to a spike in terrorism, but support for a "Palestinian state-minus" with Israel giving up areas of the West Bank and east Jerusalem neighborhoods as long as it maintained security control.
Shortly after the Trump plan was rolled out this past January, Cohen was interviewed on 103FM Israeli radio, again expressing support for targeted concessions to the Palestinians, but again opposing a Palestinian state – and adding opposition to a major annexation move by Israel without simultaneous concessions to the Palestinians.
He expressed concerns that if Israel annexed the West Bank before making concessions to the Palestinians, one of a spectrum of options under the Trump plan, it could lead to a spike in violence and a push for a one-state solution.
Questioned about his view on Sunday in light of the new national unity government and threats from Jordan, Cohen – as well as other security officials contacted by the Post – preferred to wait and see what the new mixed Likud-Blue and White government puts forward in July.  
One group of security officials which consistently opposes annexation is Commanders for Israel’s Security, which probably represents the view of a majority of former security officials. At the same time, new groups of such officials favoring annexation - like the “Bithonistim” - have formed in the last year.