Mar 20, 2023 - World

Jordan condemns far-right Israeli minister over "Greater Israel" map

Israel's Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich on March 20. Photo: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP via Getty Images

Jordan accused far-right Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich of violating the peace agreement between the two countries after he gave a speech in Paris at a podium featuring a map that included Jordan and the occupied West Bank as part of Israel and said the Palestinian people were "an invention."

Why it matters: Smotrich's speech increased tensions at a time when the Biden administration, Jordan and Egypt are trying to de-escalate the violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank ahead of the historically sensitive period of the holy month of Ramadan and Passover.

  • Several hours before Smotrich gave his speech, senior officials from the U.S., Jordan, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority met in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh to continue the diplomatic and security consultations ahead of Ramadan.

Driving the news: Smotrich spoke on Sunday in Paris at a memorial ceremony for a former far-right political activist. During his speech, he said there is no such thing as a Palestinian people.

  • "The people in the Elysee palace and the White House should also hear this truth," Smotrich said, claiming the Palestinian people are "an invention" of the last 100 years and saying his family members who were born in Jerusalem in the 19th century are the "real Palestinians."
  • "There is no such thing as a Palestinian people," he said.
  • What drew a lot of attention, however, was the map on the podium from which Smotrich spoke. It showed "Greater Israel" with Jordan and the West Bank as part of Israel's borders.

The big picture: The peace agreement between Israel and Jordan ended all territorial claims each of the countries had and set the determined borders between them.

  • The Jordanian government is highly sensitive to any attempts by Israeli far-right politicians to claim that Jordan is Palestine or that Jordan is not a legitimate country.

What they're saying: The Jordanian Foreign Ministry summoned the Israeli ambassador in Amman over Smotrich's comments.

  • A Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesperson in a statement accused Smotrich of violating the peace agreement with his speech and his appearance with the map.
  • "We condemn the racist, inciting and extremist statements by the extremist Israeli minister against the Palestinian people and its right to exist," the statement said.
  • The Jordanian Foreign Ministry said Smotrich's statements were "dangerous" and called on the international community and the Israeli government to denounce them.
  • The Palestinian presidency called Smotrich's statement a "falsification of history and racism."
  • "The Palestinian people’s indigenous narrative strongly debunks Israeli fundamentalist attempts to rob Palestine and the Palestinian people of their history and forge it to make room for Israeli fabrications," the Palestinian presidency's statement said.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry tweeted on Monday that Israel is committed to the 1994 peace agreement with Jordan.

  • "There has been no change in the position of the State of Israel, which recognizes the territorial integrity of the Hashemite Kingdom," the tweet read.
  • The tweet came after Jordanian officials pressed the Israeli government to issue a clarification over Smotrich's appearance with the "Greater Israel" map, Israeli officials said.
  • Israeli national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said in a tweet later Monday that he spoke to Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and assured him "of the commitment the Government of Israel has to uphold the peace treaty between our two countries which has strengthened the stability and the security of our region for nearly 30 years."
  • Smotrich has not commented on the Jordanian Foreign Ministry's accusation.

Go deeper: U.S. says Israeli minister's call to wipe out Palestinian town is "disgusting"

Editor's note: This story has been updated with Hanegbi's comment.

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