Israel's Opportunity to Turn Over a New Leaf With Jordan

Haaretz Editorial
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Jordan's King Abdullah speaks in Amman, 2019.
Jordan's King Abdullah speaks in Amman, 2019. Credit: Muhammad Hamed/ REUTERS
Haaretz Editorial

Remarks made by King Abdullah II of Jordan in an interview with CNN this week and his conciliatory, optimistic tone prove that in diplomacy, as in personal relations, our treatment of others affects their treatment of us. The winds of change blowing from Jerusalem had an immediate impact on the diplomatic climate.

King Abdullah made it clear that he seeks to strengthen relations between Jordan and Israel, which have been poor until recently. It’s apparent from his remarks that he’s inclined to believe that the new government has indeed made it a goal to improve relations with Jordan.

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Even though Jordan is one of Israel’s most important strategic partners, successive Netanyahu governments neglected this relationship, making do with security cooperation alone. In practice, the relationship deteriorated steadily in recent years because of a series of diplomatic failures, finally hitting its nadir when Israel was forced to return Tzofar and Naharayim to Jordanian rule.

Netanyahu’s governments disliked, to say the least, Jordan’s consistent positions on the Palestinian problem, the Temple Mount, East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and other issues, as well as its devotion to the two-state solution, which the Israeli government has sought in recent years to toss into the dust heap of history. At the same time, the right continued to nurture the dream of a “Jordanian option” for solving the Palestinian issue, thus undermining the Hashemite royal house.

After years without any contact between the two countries’ leaders, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met secretly with King Abdullah, and the two agreed to turn over a new leaf.

This agreement did not remain merely declarative. When Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with his Jordanian counterpart, Ayman Safadi, the two agreed that Israel would sell Jordan, which suffers from a water shortage, an extra 50 million cubic meters of water a year, and would also enable Jordan to increase its exports to the West Bank.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that the king emerged from these meetings “very encouraged.” And a good relationship with Jordan also puts the Israeli-Palestinian issue back on the table. The king delivered an important message that the new Israeli leadership would do well to grasp.

Commenting on the riots that erupted in mixed Jewish-Arab cities during the Hamas-Israel fighting in May, he warned that “the internal dynamics that we saw inside Israeli towns and cities is a bit of a wake-up call for all of us.” He sought to shatter the delusion Netanyahu nurtured, that Israel could maintain the status quo in its conflict with the Palestinians, terming it a “fragile facade.”

Bennett and Lapid must continue the diplomatic policy they have embarked upon, pay heed to King Abdullah’s warnings and advice and take advantage of the improved relationship with Jordan to restart diplomatic negotiations with the Palestinians, with the goal of advancing a diplomatic solution that will benefit both peoples and the region as a whole.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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