Nov 9, 2022 - World

Jordan braces for Netanyahu and his right-wing government

Jordanian King Abdullah II speaks with Benjamin Netanyahu in Amman on Jan. 16, 2014. Photo: Handout/Jordanian Royal Court via Getty Images

Jordanian King Abdullah II speaks with Netanyahu in Amman on Jan. 16, 2014. Photo: Handout/Jordanian Royal Court via Getty Images

AMMAN — Jordan is bracing for some tough times ahead as it prepares to deal with a new Israeli right-wing government led by Benjamin Netanyahu.

Why it matters: Jordan will have to balance its existing strategic water, gas and energy deals with Israel against possible scenarios in which the next Israeli government takes steps against the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and against Jerusalem’s holy sites.

  • Jordan is the custodian of the Muslim holy site in Jerusalem.

Flashback: Relations between Jordan and Israel during Netanyahu’s previous terms as prime minister were an ongoing crisis. King Abdullah didn’t trust Netanyahu and saw his policy as one that undermines Jordan.

What they're saying: Osama Al Sharif, chief editor of the English language daily Jordan News, told Axios the results of the Israeli elections were Jordan's worst nightmare.

  • “King Abdullah believes that Netanyahu is willing to carry out his threats regarding terminating the status quo understandings at the Al-Aqsa and annexing major chunks of the West Bank including the Jordan Valley, even risking the peace treaty with Jordan," he said.

Driving the news: Jordanian officials are concerned that appointing ultranationalist politicians like Itamar Ben-Gvir as the minister for internal security could lead to an escalation in Jerusalem and mainly in the Al-Aqsa mosque.

  • The minister of internal security is in charge of the Israeli police and policies around Jerusalem's holy sites, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
  • Jordan’s former Air Force Gen. Maamoun Abu Nuwar told Axios that King Abdullah must defend the interests of Jordan and his family’s special role in protecting holy sites in Jerusalem.

State of play: Abu Nuwar says the king is unlikely to cooperate with the new Netanyahu government, insisting that “Netanyahu’s DNA is well known to the king, and it will only change for the worse now not the better.”

  • Nidal Qaqish, a Jordanian engineer and former member of As-Salt City Council, told Axios that Jordan’s cooperation with Israel on water and borders will become much more complicated.
  • Mofid Deek, a retired U.S. diplomat living in Jordan, argues that every time there is a right-wing government in Israel, the Arab states that have normalized relations with Israel go through a soul-searching, painful period.
  • “The raison d’etre for establishing normal relationships with Israel could diminish significantly. That puts these governments in a terrible bind with their own public," he said.

What’s next: Senior Islamist leader Atef Al-Jolani told Axios the hegemony of the radical right-wing in Israel on the religious and the national front makes Jordanians worry.

  • "Jordanians expect that next phase of Netanyahu’s rule to reflect even further enmity to Jordan and its interests, leaving Jordan to have to make some tough choices in dealing with a government that will include the radical religious Zionists," he said.
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