Annexation Could Kill Jordan Peace Deal, Israeli Defense Officials Believe

King Abdullah II’s statement that Jordan is “studying all the options” for responding if Israel annexes part of the West Bank, expresses the magnitude of Amman’s concern over the steps Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is considering. Before that statement King Abdullah, in an interview in the German newspaper Der Spiegel, issued more detailed and harsher warnings, which have been conveyed in recent months from Amman to Jerusalem. 

The Jordanian concern about steps to impose Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank and annex the Jordan Valley has also been expressed in messages to the Israeli defense establishment as well as in conversations with people close to Kahol Lavan chairman MK Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s presumptive partner in the new government. The experts in the defense establishment believe that under extreme circumstances domestic pressures might even lead the king to cancel the peace treaty with Israel.

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The royal family also fears demonstrations against the king throughout Jordan and organized protests by the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan. Jordan has so far dealt well with the coronavirus, but its economy is still in difficult straits and the king’s status is considered quite unstable in light of the crisis, which began even before the global spread of the virus.

Abdullah told Der Spiegel that “if Israel really annexes the West Bank in July, it would lead to a massive conflict with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.” He said that this was not the right time to discuss a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to which annexation could lead, and he called on countries in the region to work together against the coronavirus.

The possibility of annexation came up last year, ahead of the presentation of the Trump administration’s peace plan and against the backdrop of three Knesset election campaigns in a row in Israel. Netanyahu considered declaring the annexation of the Jordan Valley in September 2019, on the eve of the second election. He recanted at the last minute, apparently also under the influence of a telephone consultation in which he heard warnings from the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, Aviv Kochavi, and Shin Bet security service chief Nadav Argaman, of the impact of such a move on ties with Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, and the possibility of increased violence in the territories.

The issue came up for discussion again in January when the United States presented what President Donald Trump calls the “deal of the century” peace plan. The coalition agreement between Likud and Kahol Lavan states that Netanyahu can move annexation to a vote beginning on July 1. But over the past few days the administration has signaled that annexation must be carried out in the framework of the peace initiative, in consultation with Washington.

The U.S. State Department spokeswoman told Israeli journalists in the context of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Israel last week that annexation “should be part of discussions between Israel and the Palestinians on the Trump administration’s peace plan.” Meanwhile, the European Union is preparing for the possibility that joint projects with Israel will be suspended in response to moves toward unilateral annexation. The EU is expected to issue a warning Monday to Israel against annexation.