Israeli Envoy to Jordan Worried About Kingdom's Increasing Instability

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Protesters from the Islamic Action Front and others rally against rising prices and the imposition of more taxes, Amman, Jordan, February 24, 2017.
Protesters from the Islamic Action Front and others rally against rising prices and the imposition of more taxes, Amman, Jordan, February 24, 2017.Credit: MUHAMMAD HAMED/REUTERS

Israel’s ambassador to Jordan, Einat Schlein, gave a pessimistic assessment of Jordan’s situation in a briefing a few months ago to Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot. Schlein and Eisenkot discussed the crisis of refugees from Syria, many of whom have come to Jordan.

A senior Israeli official who asked to remain anonymous said the briefing, which took place in October, was held at Eisenkot’s request.

According to the senior official, Eisenkot wanted to get the impression of Israel’s ambassador to Jordan, whose security and strategic importance to Israel is great.

The official added that a few weeks later, Eisenkot said in a closed meeting that he was disturbed by what he heard from the ambassador. The chief of staff also said in that meeting that if need be, Israel must assist its friend to the east. The Foreign Ministry and the IDF spokesman’s office declined to respond for this report.

Israel and Jordan have widespread security relations, most of which is low profile, despite the fact that the two countries signed a peace agreement and have maintained full diplomatic relations for more than two decades.

The main reason that the close ties are hardly ever expressed publicly is the great political sensitivity ascribed to them against the backdrop of the hiatus in the peace process with the Palestinians.

In recent years, particularly since the civil war in Syria and the flight of more than a million refugees to Jordan, Israel has made major efforts to assist Jordan. Another senior official, who also asked to remain anonymous, said that senior officials in Israel encouraged the Obama administration as well as the Trump administration and other governments, to give Jordan economic and security assistance.

Despite this assistance, Haaretz has learned that Israel’s ambassador to Jordan has expressed concern over the developments and the instability in that country.

One of the main reasons Israel wants to assist the Jordanian monarchy stems from the close security ties between the two countries and from the fact that Israel’s eastern border, with Jordan, is both its longest border and its quietest. The security ties between Israel and Jordan have been acknowledged more than once by none other than Jordan's King Abdullah II.

According to a report published on the news website Middle East Eye in March 2016, the Jordanian king met two months earlier in Washington with a group of members of Congress and briefed them about the situation in the Middle East and the ties between Jordan and Israel.

According to the report, King Abdullah told the members of Congress about at least one additional meeting with the Israeli chief of staff, apparently in 2015, during which Eisenkot recommended that he establish a coordination mechanism with the Russian army, similar to that established by Israel, in order to prevent undesirable encounters with Russian air force planes that are operating in Syria.

In the report King Abdullah was quoted as telling the members of Congress that there is close operational cooperation between the Israeli and Jordanian air forces. It was also reported that the king described an incident to them in which Russian air force planes that were flying near the Syrian-Jordanian-Israeli borders, encountered F-16s belonging to the Israeli and Jordanian air forces, which were on a joint mission.

In September 2015 the flight website Foxtrot Alpha reported that Israeli and Jordanian fighter planes had participated in a military exercise in the United States and practiced mid-air refueling on their way to the exercise. According to the report, an Israeli plane refueled the Jordanian fighter planes. In July 2015 Reuters reported that Israel had sent 16 U.S.-made Cobra combat helicopters to Jordan in order to fight Islamic State (ISIS), after those helicopters were phased out of the Israel Air Force.

The Foreign Ministry refused to respond, but after this article was published Wednesday morning it issued an official statement, which read: "In the briefing of the Chief of Staff the Israeli Ambassador in Amman Einat Schlein presented the situation in Jordan and among other subjects also the difficulties and economic challenges which the kingdom faces because it is hosting over a million Syrian refugees," Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said. "The ambassador stressed the need for greater international assistance for Jordan in this respect. It should be stressed that Israel views the peaceful and friendly relations with Jordan with the utmost importance. The State of Israel holds great esteem for Jordan and its leadership and in their ability to maintain the stability and security of the kingdom with regard to all challenges it faces."

The IDF responded: “Briefings to the Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, take place continuously and deal with issues of security coordination only and with the goal of ensuring protection of Israel’s borders and its security.”

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