Israel seeking allies amid regional backlash over Trump's Jerusalem decision
Apology will not fully mend Israel's ties with Jordan, analysts say
Israel's apology to Jordan for the killing of two Jordanians by an embassy guard in Amman defuses a months-long diplomatic stand-off and serves the interests of both countries, but is unlikely to lead to a warming of relations, analysts say.
Jordan said on Thursday that Israel had conveyed its "deep regrets and apologies" over the killings last July and for the fatal shooting of a Jordanian judge by an Israeli soldier at the Allenby Bridge crossing in March 2014.
It also pledged to compensate the families of those killed and to initiate and follow up on legal proceedings against the guard. Jordan had refused to allow Israel to reopen the embassy in Amman until the security guard faced trial.
A statement from Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the embassy would resume operations immediately.
“Israel and Jordan have reached an agreement following the incidents at the embassy in Jordan on July 23, 2017 and in the incident in which a Jordanian judge was killed in March 2014. Israel’s embassy in Jordan will return to full operations immediately,” it said.
The July shootings soured ties between the two countries, which signed a peace treaty in 1994 and had been stepping up security co-operation in response to the war in Syria and the threat from ISIL and Iranian-linked militias. It also threatened collaboration in other areas, particularly the Red Sea-Dead Sea project to provide Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories with potable water and to help maintain water levels in the Dead Sea.
Jordanian anger was heightened when Mr Netanyahu embraced the embassy guard on his return to Israel, prompting King Abdullah to issue a statement condemning behaviour that was “provocative on all fronts and enrages us, destabilises security and fuels extremism".
“Israel has met the required conditions which Jordan stipulated. It has become a personal issue for the king particularly after Netanyahu’s welcoming of the guard came as an insult to the country,” said Zaid Nawaiseh, an independent political analyst based in Amman.
“For Israel, it is important to keep a window open with Jordan, especially after it became isolated in the wake of the Trump administration's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. And for Jordan, it has a key role to help revive the peace negotiations and to ensure that any settlement will not jeopardise its interests.”
King Abdullah has repeatedly said the issue of Jerusalem must be settled within a comprehensive peace agreement based on the two-state solution that guarantees the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side by side with Israel.
Amman is concerned that potential unrest in the Palestinian territories could spill into the kingdom, which has a sizeable population of Palestinian refugees who arrived in the aftermath of the 1948 and 1967 wars.
The change in the US stance on Jerusalem, announced in December, put further strain on Jordan-Israel ties as Jordan is the custodian of the Al Aqsa mosque compound in the city, Islam’s third holiest site, under the 1994 peace treaty.
“The Israelis are concerned about the deterioration of the Palestinian situation and they need to make sure they still have a strong anchor with countries like Jordan and Egypt,” said Dauod Kuttab, a political columnist.
“The changes in the region put Israel in a difficult position,” he said. “And an extended disagreement with Jordan would put Israel’s national interest in jeopardy. Therefore, they needed to ensure that ties with Jordan are restored like they were in the past years."
Amer Sabaileh, director of Middle East Media and Political Studies Institute, a think tank with a branch in Amman, said despite the apology, ties will likely remain cold.
“Both countries have a mutual interest to have their ties improved. The timing of the apology is important for Israel since it is well aware that Trump’s declaration will destabilise the region,” he said. “Its security comes as a priority and therefore it is in its interest to improve ties with its allies. But reopening the embassy in Amman does not mean that it would change its policies towards Jordan and the Palestinians.”
Israeli actions in Jerusalem and the West Bank remain an irritant in ties with Jordan. On Tuesday, Jordan condemned an Israeli order preventing the Jordan-run Islamic Awqaf department in Jerusalem from conducting routine maintenance and restoration work on the Al Aqsa Mosque, on the grounds that prior approval was not obtained. The work resumed two days later.