The public hosting of an Israeli official by Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Wednesday in Amman, observers say, is part of a significant resetting of ties between the two historic peace partners. It was the first such public meeting in more than four years after Jordan was seen as sidelined by the administrations of former U.S. President Donald Trump and ex-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The rare public meeting saw Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz talk about regional security and improving ties that had become strained in recent years.
With the signing of a peace treaty in 1994, Jordan became a security ally for Israel, but relations suffered over the festering Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They improved with the formation of the new Israeli government last June.
Abdullah told Gantz that maintaining calm in Palestinian territories was crucial and stressed the need for measures “to achieve a just and comprehensive peace based on the two-state solution” to end the conflict.
Frequent clashes between Muslim worshippers and Israeli security forces in east Jerusalem, where Jordan serves as custodian of holy sites, is another source of tension.
In a tweet after the meeting, Gantz “praised the expansion of relations” and “expressed [Israel’s] commitment to further develop security, economic and civilian exchanges.”
Jordanian political commentator Amer Al Sabaileh says the meeting “is part of the new Jordanian approach toward the Israelis in the post-Netanyahu era and Gantz is the main channel.”
Al Sabaileh told VOA that rebuilding official relations was key due to Jordan’s concerns for the West Bank and the Palestinian political scene, noting that Gantz has also spoken with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“Many things are heating up in the West Bank. Some people think that Abbas in a way didn’t inform Jordan of the content of the Gantz meeting. They believe that he even didn’t talk about peace or the vision that the Jordanians keep promoting to revive the peace talks. So, it’s a way to keep Jordan on board, to keep the Jordanian line with the Israelis active and to avoid any surprising elements whether on the political level between Israel and Palestinians or on the stability of the West Bank in general,” he said.
Although there was no mention in the official readout about Iran, Al Sabaileh said he believes it was likely discussed because he sees Jordan as a potential target “for Iran’s proxy confrontation with the Israelis.”
“When it comes to Iran today, the West Bank via Jordan is one of the main targets for their strategy to destabilize the Israelis,” he said. “In Gaza, they have clear influence. South Lebanon, the same. Iranians are more present now in the south of Syria. There were many attempts also to influence Jordan and operating in Jordan.”
Ofer Zalzberg, director of the Middle East program at the Austria-based Herbert C. Kelman Institute, told the Saudi Arab News daily that the Abdullah-Gantz meeting was “part of elevating a stabilization policy in the face of a weakened Palestinian Authority.”