Jordanian prince secretly meets Israeli president amid 'all-time low' in relations

Jordanian prince secretly meets Israeli president amid 'all-time low' in relations
Prince Ghazi bin Mohammed, a senior advisor and envoy to Jordan’s King Abdullah was part of a high-level delegation which met Rivlin during a working visit to the British capital.

4 min read
30 November, 2019
The Israeli president was in London during the time of the meeting [Getty]
A Jordanian prince secretly met with Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin in London, Israeli media reported on Wednesday, just days after King Abdullah confirmed relations between the two were at "an all-time low."

Prince Ghazi bin Mohammed, a senior advisor and envoy to Jordan’s King Abdullah was part of a high-level delegation which met Rivlin during a working visit to the British capital.

"A number of issues were discussed" during the meeting, according to an official statement from the president's office, including a joint tourism project dubbed the Land of Monasteries.

Earlier this month, Jordan's King Abdullah toured an annex recently reclaimed from Israel - the first time in over a quarter of a century the lands have come under Amman's control.

Israel gained control of the Baqura and Al-Ghamr annexes - known as Naharayim and Tzofar by Israelis - from Jordan for a period of 25 years, as part of the Wadi Araba peace agreement that ended hostilities between the two countries.

Israel appeared to have expected Amman would renew the leases or sell the land.

A week earlier, amid the backdrop of tense relations between the two countries, Jordan said it would refuse Israel's request to extend the lease of the two annexes, after the previous agreement expired in October.

"Today, I also announce the expiration of the peace treaty annexes on Al-Ghamr and Baqura and the imposition of our full sovereignty over every inch of those lands," King Abdullah said at the opening on parliament.

Accompanied by his son, Crown Prince Hussein, and other military officials, the king watched as the Jordanian flag was raised above the agricultural land for the first time in at least a quarter of a century.

"Jordan's sovereignty over its lands is above all other considerations," the king said in a tweet on Monday. 

"Baqura and Al-Ghamr have always been at the top of our priorities…our decision is to terminate... [the] annexes from the peace treaty [is] out of our keenness to take all decisions that would serve Jordan and Jordanians."

The decision to reclaim sovereignty over the two enclaves led to celebrations in the kingdom, where over half the population is of Palestinian descent.

In Israel, there has been some unease at the Jordan's decision to reclaim the land, which coincides with marked tensions between the two neighbours, most recently over Netanyahu's pledge to annex the occupied Jordan Valley.

"There wasn't a real reconciliation," Netanyahu said, about relations between Israel and Jordan this week.

Relations suffered further after Jordan recalled its ambassador in Israel over the country's refusal to free two detained Jordanians, including a woman, who were detained in August. 

Hiba al-Labadi, 24, and Abdelrahman Merhi, 28, were arrested at a crossing between Jordan and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Despite this, Netanyahu said he was keen to preserve the 1994 peace deal between Jordan and Israel, despite the latest blip in relations.

"We have an outstanding interest in keeping the peace agreement due to the fact that we have our longest border with Jordan and given the short distance from the border to the Mediterranean Sea," Netanyahu said according to Times of Israel.

"The importance of stability in Jordan, like the importance of the stability in Egypt and the stability of the peace agreements or the non-takeover by Islamist elements, is in our clear interest, vis-à-vis the regime in Egypt and the regime in Jordan."

Israel and Egypt agreed a peace deal in 1979 while the Oslo Accords was agreed with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation in 1995.

Relations between the two countries took another blow following the United States decision to no longer consider Israeli settlements illegal.

Jordan - one of two Arab states to have signed peace treaties with Israel - sharply criticised the US policy shift, with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi warning of "dangerous consequences".

Since the heady days of Israel's second peace treaty with an Arab state - after Egypt - relations with Amman have been strained.

Read more: Israeli minister seeking US-backed 'non-aggression pacts' in latest sign of normalisation with Gulf Arab nations

Opinion polls have repeatedly found that the peace treaty with Israel is overwhelmingly opposed by Jordanians, more than half of whom are of Palestinian origin.

The simmering tensions have been punctuated by bouts of violence.

In 2017, an Israeli embassy security guard in Amman killed two Jordanians.

Three years earlier, an Israeli soldier at a border crossing killed a Jordanian judge he deemed a threat.  

Just last month, Amman recalled its ambassador from Israel over the prolonged detention without trial in the Jewish state of two Jordanians. The ambassador returned after the two were released.

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