Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to celebrate Israel’s diplomatic relations with its new friends in the Persian Gulf. Instead, he exposed the problems created under his leadership in the relations with our neighbor to the east, Jordan. For Netanyahu, developing new diplomatic relations with faraway countries involves disregard for old relations with neighboring countries.
Last week Netanyahu wanted to go to the United Arab Emirates to meet with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to mark the normalization agreement. Netanyahu had a burning desire to fly to the UAE right now – because of the upcoming election. This was an attempt to showcase his new diplomatic achievements. But at the last moment Netanyahu was forced to cancel his trip, and not for the reason his office said.
It was not Sara Netanyahu’s hospitalization that ruined his plans, but yet another crisis with Jordan. Netanyahu has already admitted that the real reason for canceling the trip was that Jordan complicated the passage of his airplane through Jordanian airspace. “The visit to the Emirates was not possible due to a misunderstanding, because of the coordination of the visit to the Temple Mount,” he said.
In other words: The Jordanians were upset with Netanyahu and closed the skies to him. This comes after a disagreement over security arrangements for Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah’s scheduled visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, where Jordan has special status.
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The Jordanians were angry because Israel refused to allow the crown prince’s extended security team to enter. Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi accused Israel of backtracking on agreements reached before the visit. He admitted the kingdom closed its skies to Netanyahu as a punishment. “You renege on an agreement with Jordan, you disrupt a religious visit, you create conditions that made this religious visit on a holy occasion impossible and then you expect to come to Jordan and fly out of Jordan? Let’s be serious here,” he said.
During Netanyahu’s term, the peace with Jordan has cooled down. In 2017, relations ran aground after an Israeli embassy guard shot two Jordanians – he alleged one of them attacked him with a screwdriver – and received a very warm welcome from Netanyahu when he returned to Israel. The Israeli embassy reopened only after Israel expressed regret over the incident and agreed compensate the families of those killed. But relations haven’t really warmed back up since then. To the list of diplomatic failures can be added the return of the enclaves at Naharayim and Tzofar to Jordanian sovereignty, and Netanyahu’s declaration that he intends to annex the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea area.
The peace with Jordan is a supreme interest for Israel. Netanyahu must protect it, even when he is deep in an election campaign and ingratiating himself with his new friends in the UAE.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.