Senior Defense Officials Warn Annexation Would Endanger Israel's Peace With Jordan

Jordan's King Abdullah is facing internal pressure, top officials say in assessment conveyed to political leaders, sounding the alarm about ramifications of any unilateral moves for relations with Amman and the situation in the West Bank

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
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Jordanian King Abdullah II delivers a speech at the European Parliament, on January 15, 2020, in Strasbourg, eastern France.
Jordanian King Abdullah II delivers a speech at the European Parliament, on January 15, 2020, in Strasbourg, eastern France.Credit: Frederick FLORIN/AFP
Amos Harel
Amos Harel

The helm of the Israeli security establishment has expressed worry recently about the future of the relationship between Israel and Jordan. With the presentation of the U.S. administration’s peace plan, and especially given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s intent to announce the annexation of the Jordan Valley, the top brass has been warning against unilateral steps that could influence the future of ties with Amman.

According to this assessment, which has been conveyed to the senior politicians, King Abdullah of Jordan is under a host of domestic pressures that are making things difficult for his regime.

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Abdullah is under fire for the country’s economic situation and the many cases of government corruption that have been uncovered. Many elements in Jordan, including the Muslim Brotherhood, vehemently oppose to the close diplomatic and security ties the kingdom maintains with Israel. An uncoordinated move by Israel, especially an announcement about annexing the Jordan Valley, could challenge those ties. Some assessments say that annexing the valley might even undermine the peace treaty between the two countries.

Before the September elections, Netanyahu had planned to announce that he was bringing a bill to annex the Jordan Valley to the cabinet for a vote. He dropped the idea at the last minute and made do with a general statement about his plan to annex the area after the elections, which came to nothing when it became clear he couldn’t establish a government.

Journalist Ben Caspit reported in Maariv at the time that Netanyahu changed his mind after a stormy telephone consultation with top security officials, during which Chief of General Staff Aviv Kochavi and Shin Bet security service head Nadav Argaman warned of the serious consequences that could result. One assumes those warnings are being repeated now.

The main concern of the security establishment is the impact on the relations with Jordan. In the Palestinian arena, there is currently no focused warning of a plan to destabilize the territories following the Trump initiative.

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas may have condemned the U.S. move and the Israeli annexation comments, but the “day of rage” called for Wednesday in the territories passed with few incidents and relatively minor demonstrations. In the longer term, the Palestinian response will probably be influenced by what Israel actually does. An annexation announcement could make more extensive and violent riots more likely.

Meanwhile, contrary to Netanyahu’s original intention, immediate moves toward annexation have been postponed. On Tuesday evening Netanyahu and his spokesmen said he was planning to bring a bill to annex the Jordan Valley and all the West Bank settlements to the cabinet on Sunday for a vote. It seems that the main reason for the delay, whose duration isn’t clear, is American objections. The Trump administration is insisting there be a convening of a bilateral coordination committee before a decision is made – an objection that could put off any move toward annexation to after the Knesset election on March 2.

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