Israel, Jordan Publicly Feud After Netanyahu’s Jet Barred From Jordanian Airspace
Ban is temporary, but canceled trip reveals growing tensions between Middle East neighbors
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s March surprise was put on hold Thursday, after the leader’s scheduled summit with his United Arab Emirates counterpart was abruptly canceled amid rising regional intrigues.
In a bizarre turn of events, Netanyahu’s planned trip to Abu Dhabi, which was hurriedly announced on Wednesday and was rumored to include a possible side meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, was scrubbed less than 24 hours later.
The visit was postponed “due to difficulties in coordinating [the prime minister’s] flight in Jordanian airspace,” according to a statement sent to The Media Line from the Prime Minister’s Office.
These difficulties apparently stemmed from the cancellation of the Jordanian crown prince’s visit to the Temple Mount due to a disagreement over security procedures at the site
While Jordanian authorities later approved the Israeli plane’s transit, the delay had already forced Jerusalem to cancel the summit.
“These difficulties apparently stemmed from the cancellation of the Jordanian crown prince’s visit to the Temple Mount due to a disagreement over security procedures at the site,” the statement from Netanyahu’s office said.
On Wednesday, Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah was forced to abort his scheduled tour of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. The prince’s personal detail refused to abide by Israeli protocol, which limits the number of bodyguards allowed entry into one of the most sensitive sites in the world, and bans carrying weapons in the area.
Jerusalem’s official rebuke of its neighbor, accusing Amman of obstructing the Israeli prime minister’s plans, suggests the simmering tensions between the two states, barely kept under wraps until now, may be reaching a boiling point.
“On the one hand, there have been three meetings in recent weeks between the two countries’ foreign ministers, and there has been some activity and cooperation on a number of issues in recent weeks,” Oded Eran, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies and a former ambassador to Jordan, told The Media Line.
“But the relations have definitely suffered, thanks mostly to the total disconnect between the two leaders. The prime minister and [King Abdullah] haven’t met or spoken in a very long time. Amman is frustrated that no advancement has been made on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or toward resolving the strategic water dispute between Israel and Jordan,” Eran said.
: In 1994, the two nations signed a peace treaty, Israel’s first accord with any of its Arab neighbors. They have since experienced noticeable ups and downs, but have maintained full diplomatic relations and cooperate on a series of issues.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Thursday released a statement excoriating his political rival Netanyahu, stressing the importance of mending the two neighbors’ troubled relationship.
“Jordan is a strategic partner of Israel, and our security and diplomatic relations are a cornerstone of Israel’s national security,” said Gantz, who last month secretly visited Amman and met with King Abdullah. “Unfortunately, Netanyahu’s conduct over the years has severely harmed these ties, and has caused Israel to lose significant defense, diplomatic and economic assets.”
Eran added that Jordan’s unhappiness, which led to the effective grounding of Netanyahu’s plane, also stems from last year’s “rapid advancement of the Abraham Accords between Israel and Arab states, while the Palestinian stalemate continues.”
“When there is no dialogue between the top men, it’s bound to get worse,” he added.
In September, Israel and the UAE signed the Abraham Accords, agreeing to normalize relations. Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan soon followed suit, officially recognizing the Jewish State and establishing formal ties.
The rushed trip to the Emirates, scheduled to last all of two hours, was announced on Wednesday after the cancellation of three similar visits in recent weeks due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus and flight restrictions.
During last year’s three consecutive election campaigns, Netanyahu’s team made sure to schedule high-profile international engagements with world leaders, such as former United States President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, mere days before Election Day, and the 2021 cycle seems to be no exception.
As the race enters the home stretch with 12 days to go until Israelis head to the polls, Netanyahu has hammered home his main campaign theme, ridiculing his political rivals for their lack of diplomatic experience and highlighting his stature as a global heavyweight.
When there is no dialogue between the top men, it’s bound to get worse
Initial reports on Thursday claimed Netanyahu’s meeting with Emirati Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed was scratched because Netanyahu’s wife, Sara, was hospitalized for appendicitis.
After being rushed to Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center on Wednesday, Sara Netanyahu is said to be in good condition and will remain under doctors’ care for several days.