Jordan rejects Netanyahu visit in bid to save face

Jordan rejects Netanyahu visit in bid to save face
Analysis: Amman has reportedly shunned a bilateral meeting with the Israeli prime minister, but officials may still meet Netanyahu with representatives of other nations.
3 min read
22 October, 2015
Amman remained silent over Israeli proposals for Netanyahu to visit Jordan [Getty]
Jordan's reported refusal to receive a visit from Binyamin Netanyahu aims to spare Amman's blushes, after the Israeli prime minister appeared to renege on promises made to Jordanian leaders last year.

But the real question is - what would a bilateral Jordan-Israel meeting even achieve?

Netanyahu is already set to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman, and King Abdullah has reportedly agreed to host a summit between Netanyahu, Abbas and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

The Jordanians and their king have, however, not forgotten remarks made by the Israeli prime minister during a November 2014 meeting hosted by King Abdullah and attended by Kerry and Netanyahu - but boycotted by Abbas.

Netanyahu then pledged to "maintain the status quo in the holy sites in East Jerusalem", and "to respect the historic Jordanian role in maintaining holy places in Jerusalem".

Netanyahu, who has a long history of wrangling with and embarrassing Jordan, has turned his back on all these promises, and the situation in Jerusalem is now back to square one - or may even be in negative space.

When he made these pledges, Israeli incursions into al-Aqsa Mosque were less frequent than today, and Palestinian reprisals were limited in scope. Today the situation on the ground is different: The attacks are increasing on a daily basis and the Palestinian reaction is intensifying and spreading.

This escalation goes against Israeli, Palestinian Authority and Jordanian wishes. Jordan may be trying to use the unrest for political gain - though only in so far as restoring Amman's position as the guardian of the holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem.

The king and Jordanian policymakers understand that agreeing to meet with Netanyahu in Jordan, whether for a meeting with Abbas or a multilateral summit, would have caused the king and Jordan great embarrassment.
Another important factor for Jordan's official rejection of a meeting with Netanyahu is the feeling of having been deceived

Jordanian protesters in solidarity with Al-Aqsa have criticised the Jordanian king and government's reluctance to play a real role in defending the mosque, underscoring Netanyahu's false promises made months ago.

Protesters have even launched pre-emptive efforts to prevent the Israeli prime minister from visiting Amman.

Despite the importance of domestic politics in denouncing the proposed visit, Amman is still licking its wounds, feeling deceived by Tel Aviv - akin to the deception of the late King Hussein by Netanyahu, less than three years after the peace treaty was signed.

In 1997, Israel tried to assassinate Khaled Meshaal, the head of the Hamas political bureau, in Jordan.

The bid failed, almost destroying the peace treaty - were it not for last-minute Israeli concessions to appease the late king.

What is different today, however, is that the Israelis do not seem to be willing to give any concessions to the current king, whose anger has not prevented him from respecting the peace treaty and continuing to abide by all its terms.

Amman has remained silent vis-a-vis Israeli offers from Netanyahu to visit Jordan and Israeli leaks about a multilateral summit, but criticised Israeli provocation at al-Aqsa, blaming Tel Aviv for the escalating violence.