Why can’t Israel avoid more crises with Jordan - analysis

Israel prevented Jordan’s Crown Prince from a high profile visit to Jerusalem that would have included the Haram Al-Sharif and apparently other sites, such as churches.

Jordanian protesters chant slogans during a protest against a government agreement to import natural gas from Israel, in Amman, Jordan, Sept. 30, 2016 (photo credit: MUHAMMAD HAMED/REUTERS)
Jordanian protesters chant slogans during a protest against a government agreement to import natural gas from Israel, in Amman, Jordan, Sept. 30, 2016
The latest crisis with Jordan escalated last week as Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi took public a dispute that appears to have disrupted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to briefly fly to the UAE on Thursday. This is an embarrassing dispute and many questions remain about why it was allowed to grow, despite apparently easy ways to have kept the temperatures turned down.
The larger regional picture is that Jordan is important, from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Gulf, it is essential to regional security and also keeping calm and prosperity in the West Bank. Israel has appeared to take that for granted.
According to foreign reports last month, Defense Minister Benny Gantz reportedly met with Jordan’s King Abdullah. Safadi also met Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi in December. However, signals from the Prime Minister’s Office have not been so welcoming to the Hashemite Kingdom.
Israel prevented Jordan’s crown prince from a high-profile visit to Jerusalem that would have included the Haram al-Sharif and apparently other sites, such as churches. Safadi has been clear and direct in demanding answers from Israel regarding the embarrassing situation.
Jordan has indicated that Israel is toying with the region as part of electoral and populist concerns. Trust is being harmed. He said Israel was not being serious in seeming to take Jordan for granted, wanting to fly over Jordan but not letting the important visit take place.
Regardless of the diplomatic protocol or dispute that caused the visit to be stopped, when the crown prince was crossing the border, the whole thing had spiraled into an unhelpful situation.
This is not the first time this kind of incident has happened that harmed relations between Israel and Jordan. Jordan appears to feel that Israel takes it for granted and has for years.
The king has no clear relationship with Netanyahu. This may date from historic anger over Netanyahu’s behavior going back to the 1990s. Despite claims that Jordan and Israel have very good relations on other levels, the high-level incidents continue to shock those who follow relations between the two countries.
Israel is also on a high because of its new ties with Gulf states. But Jordan is close to the same Gulf monarchies that made peace with Israel. Jordan is also close to Saudi Arabia.
During the early years of the Trump administration, the king sought to prevent a crisis over Jerusalem. When the US moved the embassy, the kingdom was invited to Turkey as Ankara sought to bring Jordan into its orbit. The kingdom did not become close to Turkey but nevertheless has many challenges at home, from the economy to refugees to COVID now.
The issue here is that the kingdom enjoys unique rights in Jerusalem and close ties to the Palestinian leadership. It has historic ties to the West Bank but it wants a two-state solution. It was nonplussed by Netanyahu’s trip to Oman in 2018 and said as much in 2019, noting that Israel needs to make movement on two-state issues, a point Safadi has made repeatedly and one Amman has stressed at Manama Dialogue conferences.
In 2017 an Israeli security officer at the Israeli Embassy in Amman shot two Jordanians after being attacked. That was one more crisis in relations. This was quietly resolved.
But reports have suggested security ties with Jordan could be at risk over the last several years. A quarter century after the signing of the peace treaty, ties are not great publicly. Jordan ended Israeli leases on lands in 2019 that were part of the peace deal. In 2017 Jordan also freed the Jordanian soldier responsible for the 1997 Island of Peace massacre. Back in 2013 a total of 110 of 120 members of Jordan’s parliament signed a petition for his release.
Incidents like this, as well as Netanyahu meeting the security guard who was involved in the 2017 incident, have made ties appear cold. Nevertheless there are other agreements that appear to work, such as having Jordanians come to Eilat for work..