This Is What Frosty Peace Looks Like: Israel, Jordan Choose to Ignore Treaty's 25th Anniversary

Threats of annexation, clashes over the Temple Mount, and a hugely partisan White House have all contributed to a chill in relations

U.S. President Bill Clinton (C) applauds as Jordan's King Hussein (R) and Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin shake hands during the Israeli-Jordanian Peace Treaty signing ceremony on Israeli-Jordanian border on October 26, 1994
AFP

No gala or state event is currently being planned to mark the 25th anniversary of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty next month, in another sign that relations between the two neighbors have become increasingly chilly.

Among the issues dividing the two countries are Jordan’s decision not to renew Israel’s 25-year lease on the enclaves of Naharayim and Tzofar, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent vow to annex the Jordan Valley if reelected.

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The Prime Minister’s Office referred Haaretz’s questions about the anniversary to the Foreign Ministry, which had yet to respond. Nor was any reply received from Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz’s office.

Agencies responsible for the security cooperation between Jerusalem and Amman said they were not planning any event to mark the anniversary. The Institute for National Security Studies hosted on Wednesday an event to mark the anniversary, and Foreign Ministry sources said the ministry was involved in that.

Several senior Foreign Ministry officials attended the INSS event, which was organized in cooperation with the Ben-Zvi Institute. However, no senior representative of the government was there, nor was anyone present from the Jordanian Embassy.

The mood at the conference was pessimistic, and much of the focus was on the hurdles that have arisen since the agreement was signed. The invitation described the relationship as “a cold peace, in which the mutual benefits of cooperation and the many common state interests are not fully understood by the Israeli and Jordanian publics.”

An Israeli soldier patrols the border area between Israel and Jordan at Naharayim, as seen from the Israeli side, October 22, 2018.
Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

But the most salient symbol of the depth of the chill in the relationship was a secret panel at the conference that wasn’t announced in the invitation. Two of the panel members were former Jordanian generals, who asked not to be identified by name and whose remarks could not be quoted or broadcast. Moreover, both arrived in Israel without having their passports stamped at the border. The fact that Jordanians fear to come to Israel openly epitomizes the state of the diplomatic relationship, 25 years after it began.

The experts who participated in the conference sought to identify the sources of the friction. Some focused on the conflict with the Palestinians, which hinders any possibility of a warmer relationship, while others focused on conflicts over the Temple Mount. Some noted that the two countries have always had a complicated relationship, while other speakers accused the current Israeli government of not working hard enough to rectify the relationship.

Other issues that arose during the discussion included the rift between the Jordanian people and the king, and the Trump administration’s policies, which the speakers said aren’t helping matters.

The Israel-Jordan relationship has been cool for a long time, but it worsened following an incident in July 2017 in which an Israeli guard at the embassy in Amman shot and killed two Jordanians. The guard said he opened fire because one of them attacked him with a screwdriver. Upon returning to Israel, he was warmly welcomed by Netanyahu, which infuriated Jordanians.

Jordan allowed the embassy to reopen only after Israel expressed regret for the incident and paid compensation to the families of the deceased. The Jordanian newspaper Al Ghad reported that Israel paid around $5 million to the two families. It also paid compensation to the family of a Jordanian judge who was shot and killed at the Allenby Bridge border crossing in 2014.