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Bennett and King Abdullah II secretly met in thawing of Israeli-Jordanian relations

What happened: Prime Minister Naftali Bennett secretly meet King Abdullah II last week in Amman, the first meeting between the Israeli Prime Minister and the King of Jordan in over five years.

  • The meeting was described by Israeli media as positive and that the two leaders agreed to open a “new page” in relations after the tense period between the two countries.
  • Also yesterday, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met with his Jordanian counterpart, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safdi, on the Jordanian side of the Allenby Bridge. Israel agreed to sell Jordan an additional 50m cubic metres of water in 2021. Lapid and a-Safdi also agreed to increase Jordan’s export potential to the West Bank from $160m a year to $700m a year.
  • The two ministers agreed that technical teams would meet in the coming days to finalise the water agreement and discuss raising the volume of exports to the Palestinian Authority, in accordance with the 1994 Paris Protocol.
  • “The Kingdom of Jordan is a neighbour and important partner of the State of Israel,” Lapid said. “The Foreign Ministry will continue to hold talks to preserve and strengthen relations. We will expand economic cooperation for the benefit of the two countries.”
  • According to the Jordanian Foreign Ministry, Safadi underlined the need to maintain the comprehensive calm in the Palestinian territories and the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. He also highlighted the need to respect the status quo on the Temple Mount / Haram Al Sharif, and to respect the right of Sheikh Jarrah’ residents to their homes, emphasising that their forced expulsion from their homes would constitute a war crime under international law.

Context: The new Bennett-Lapid government appears determined to improve Israel’s relations with its neighbours after several years of tensions.

  • Earlier this week, Defence Minister Benny Gantz sent a proposal to Lebanon for humanitarian aid via the UN peacekeeping mission, UNIFIL.
  • Gantz has repeated several times in recent weeks that Israel is willing to offer assistance to Lebanon as it suffers from an unprecedented economic crisis, despite much of the country under the control of Hezbollah. It is reported that Lebanon has not yet responded to Gantz’s proposal.
  • Israel and Jordan made peace in 1994 and maintain close security ties, but relations have been strained in recent years. One reasons for the tensions was the lack of progress in building a canal between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea that was supposed to alleviate Jordan’s severe water shortage.
  • Israel has a significant capacity to produce desalinated water from the Mediterranean Sea and could be a solution to Jordan’s growing water crisis. By 2030, Israel is expected to increase its volume of desalinated water to an amount that will exceed its national needs.
  • Israel already provides around 50m cubic metres of water to Jordan annually, meaning the new agreement doubles the supply for the year between May 2021-May 2022.
  • In April, then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to Jordan’s request for an additional 3m cubic metres of water, after encouragement by the Biden administration to approve the request.
  • The US welcomed the new agreement between Lapid and Safadi, saying “it is these kinds of tangible steps that increase prosperity for all and advance regional stability”.

Looking ahead: King Abdullah is due to meet US President Joe Biden on 19 July at the White House.

  • Soon after, Prime Minister Bennett is due to visit the US and meet President Biden.
  • The Biden administration has called on all sides to take steps that could help lay the groundwork for a resumption of possible peace talks.

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