Israel’s Jordanian blind spot

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Opinion: While Jerusalem is doing all in its power to sabotage Iran’s efforts in the region, its complacency and hubris regarding the recent upheaval in Jordan serves to erode one of the most important cornerstones of Israeli security

https://www.ynetnews.com-Alex Fishman

Jordan’s King Abdullah meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2014

(Photo: Getty Images)

The explosion in Iran’s nuclear plant in Natanz took place a day after Tehran started pumping gas into its newest model of centrifuges, aiming to enrich uranium with far greater efficiency.

That day was the birth of a new Iranian holiday, dubbed “Nuclear Technology Day” by the current Iranian regime, whose eyes are firmly fixed on the country’s presidential elections in June.

The timing of the explosion was carefully chosen to cause maximum humiliation to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his regime, who are currently holding talks with world powers in Vienna on resuscitating the 2015 nuclear agreement.

There is no doubt, the Natanz explosion scuppered the Iranian enrichment process and put Tehran, Washington et al. at a crossroads regarding the Vienna talks.

Israel, whether or not it had a role in the explosion, has undoubtedly invested great effort in dealing with the Iranian threat.

That’s why it is so surprising and disheartening to see Israel put zero effort in preserving and strengthening the strategic elements it already has, whose existence is no less crucial than handling the Iranians.

Just recently Jordan was shaken by a political drama within the monarchy that had the potential to impact the whole region – and Israel had zero information about what was going on.

For years, senior Israeli intelligence and security officials have flaunted their close relationship with the Jordanian royal family and its highest military officers. But what does that matter when a regime-threatening crisis emerges in Jordan and Israel’s intelligence officials discovering it from the newspapers?

Granted, what transpired in Jordan can scarcely be called a coup. Not one of the 155 detainees is affiliated with the military. And in a country like Jordan, a coup d’état is simply impossible without the army’s cooperation.

It is more likely that this was a political movement opposed to King Abdullah and led by Prince Hamzah, which served to expose the regime’s vulnerability.

The fleeting crisis was an expression of internal social processes in Jordan, not all of them secret, but Israel was still caught off guard.

If anything, the crisis served to accentuate Israel’s hubris, its complacency born of overconfidence. For Jerusalem still believes that a quick visit from one of Israel’s intelligence heads to the Amman palace is enough to smooth things over in our favor.

The public Israeli response was a phone call from Defense Minister Benny Gantz to the palace in which he expressed the country’s and his own personal support for King Abdullah.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did no such thing. The Prime Minister’s Office is so certain that Israel has Jordan wrapped around its little finger and that the security of the Jordanian regime is in Jerusalem’s hands.

In truth, Netanyahu and King Abdullah have not spoken in many years and are in fact content with trading the occasional insult.

This behavior serves to do nothing but to gnaw away at Israel’s security, which relies on its peace agreement with Jordan as much as its peace agreement with Egypt. It also erodes the shared interest between Israel and Jordan, which serves as a bulwark against Iranian proliferation and the spread of Islamic Jihad in the Middle East.

After all, it is no secret that Tehran is just waiting for a political crisis in Jordan so it can take over just as it did in Iraq.

On one hand Israel is invested in its relationship with Jordan to safeguard the security of both countries and harm Iranian interests in the region, but on the other hand is seemingly doing everything possible to weaken the king, thereby opening the door for an Iranian takeover.

Israel’s patriotic-right-nationalist government also finds it difficult to comprehend that collaboration with Jordan over Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, which is home to Jewish and Muslim sites under Jordanian management, is an existential – not religious – issue for Amman.

Recent talk in Israel about the possibility of transferring responsibility for the Temple Mount to Saudi Arabia is yet another slap in the face for the Jordanian royal house.

Furthermore, Israel’s peace treaty with Jordan is several times more important to its security than these new agreements with the Gulf states.

 

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