Israel's Netanyahu Makes Surprise Visit to Jordan

On Tuesday, Israel's recently elected PM Benjamin Netanyahu made his first official visit to a foreign country since coming back to office, traveling to neighboring Jordan to meet with King Abdullah and discuss a number of regional issues

Israel's Netanyahu Makes Surprise Visit to Jordan
Image credit: Jordanian Royal Court [via Axios]

Facts

  • On Tuesday, Israel's recently elected PM Benjamin Netanyahu made his first official visit to a foreign country since coming back to office, traveling to neighboring Jordan to meet with King Abdullah and discuss a number of regional issues, including Al-Aqsa Mosque, the focal point of tensions in recent months.
  • Jordan’s royal court said that Abdullah urged his Israeli counterpart to respect the status quo at the sacred compound — which Muslims call Al-Aqsa and Jews call the Temple Mount – that has been under Jordan's custodianship for decades.
  • The head of Israel’s domestic security service Shin Bet, who is also in charge of security in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and the head of the Jordanian general intelligence service also attended the meeting, which Israeli Minister for Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer called "one of their best."
  • The surprise visit comes only a few days after Israeli media reported that Dermer secretly visited the UAE on Sunday to discuss a possible visit by the PM, making Dermer the first Israeli minister to visit the UAE since the establishment of Netanyahu's new government.
  • Relations between Israel and Jordan, who signed a treaty normalizing ties with each other in 1994, have become strained in recent years, and, more recently, Jordan summoned the Israeli ambassador to Amman twice in the last month — both times regarding an incident at Al-Aqsa.
  • Earlier this month, Jordanian ambassador Ghassan Majali claimed that he was prevented from entering Al-Aqsa by Israeli police due to a lack of coordination, prompting a strong response from Amman. The Israeli police claimed that the ambassador wasn't stopped but was instead asked to wait, which he allegedly wouldn't do.

Sources: Reuters, Associated Press, Axios, Times of Israel, and Al Jazeera.

Narratives

  • Narrative A, as provided by Jerusalem Post. Netanyahu's visit to Amman was a great step in strengthening Israel and Jordan's special relationship. Though the agreements with Jordan regarding the Temple Mount are not ideal for Israel, or Jews as a whole for that matter, given that they are barred from praying there, these concessions have cemented a strong relationship between Israel and its Arab neighbor. Of course, tensions have risen in recent years, but Jordan is still a necessary Israeli ally, and Israel is ready to negotiate and make concessions.
  • Narrative B, as provided by Middle East Eye. As far-right extremists continue to grow their power within Israel's institutions, neighboring Arab states must take a stand to ensure that the status quo at Al-Aqsa is maintained, regardless of Israel's aggressive actions. The understanding between Israel and Jordan regarding Al-Aqsa formed immediately after the 1967 war is one of the only arrangements between Israel and an Arab state that has actually helped ease tensions. Netanyahu should remain cautious of disturbing this understanding.

Predictions