Last week, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz met with King Abdullah II in Amman. While many reports have confirmed that there was a previous secret meeting last February, last week’s meeting came with an official statement outlining that it was a discussion of security and diplomatic concerns. It included discussions around stability in the Palestinian Territories and the possibility of relaunching the peace process based on the two-state solution.
The public visit of an Israeli official is a turning point in Jordanian Israeli ties. It can even be seen as part of a new approach from Jordan in the post-Netanyahu era and Gantz is the main channel. Both sides have recently worked to improve relations. A public meeting took place on the Allenby Bridge last August between the Israeli and Jordanian foreign ministers.
Prior to his meeting in Jordan, Gantz met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, where he had to justify it as a meeting to prevent a war with Hamas in the interests of protecting Israeli citizens. It is interesting to observe this political activism from the Israeli defence minister, who insisted that meeting with Abbas and others is important for stability, security and the interests of Israel.
The statement on talks between Abbas and Gantz did not include any initiative to relaunch peace talks, as from the Israeli side it was limited to the security and stability issues. This aligns with those who believe that Abbas did not discuss peace or the vision that Jordan keeps promoting to revive the peace talks.
From a Jordanian perspective, rebuilding official relations is key for many reasons, but mainly Jordan’s concern for the West Bank and Palestinian politics. Politically, it is also important for Jordan to keep abreast and engaged to avoid any surprises between Israel and Palestine. It is important for Jordan to be in direct contact with both parties simultaneously to guarantee the presence of the Jordanian visions and priorities on the table, as well as maintaining the stability of the West Bank in general, as things may heat up in the West Bank or in the region. In fact, Gantz’s Blue and White Party sees his job is to ensure the IDF is ready for war, but as a statesman his job is to prevent war.
The post Netanyahu phase has clearly created a better atmosphere of communication at the official level between Jordan and Israel. This comes at a time when the Palestinian Authority appears weak and is facing serious internal challenges. At the same time any escalation with Hamas could put the destiny of this Israeli government at risk, and on a wider scale an escalation with Iran will create its own challenges. Jordan is well positioned to leverage these pressures to further its agenda and protect its interests.