image Photo: Reuters, Flash90

Gantz reportedly holds secret talks with Jordanian King

Israeli Alternate Premier and Defense Minister Benny Gantz recently travelled to Jordan for secret talks with King Abdullah II.

This, according to unnamed sources cited by Israel’s Ynet news agency, who said that the two leaders discussed Iran and other urgent regional matters.

Gantz, who is competing against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in national elections in just over 3 weeks, hinted at visiting the Hashemite Kingdom during a Friday ZOOM call with members of his Blue and White (B&W) faction.

“The ties with Jordan are a huge asset and could be a thousand times better,” Gantz said, while maintaining that he holds an ongoing relationship with the monarch and senior Jordanian officials, while “Netanyahu is unwelcome in Jordan and is hampering the furtherment of relations.”

“I believe that it’s possible to do 1-2 two civilian projects each year with Jordan, and within 10 years up to 20 or 30 projects” to improve bilateral ties, said the centrist leader.

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, who is also a B&W member, has also met twice in recent months with his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi in recent months, Ynet reported.

Jerusalem and Amman signed a peace treaty in 1994, but Abdullah has vented anger over many of Netanyahu’s actions. Jordan withdrew its ambassador to Israel and Abdullah, who described bilateral relations “at an all-time low” in 2019 reportedly refused to accept phone calls from the Israel leader, after Netanyahu declared intent to annex the West Bank – a plan that was sidelined as part of the United States-brokered Abraham Accords.

Jordan has neither opposed nor publicly embraced Israel’s normalization of ties with the growing number of Arab states. Netanyahu’s coalition partners have long been frustrated by his enactment of policy and deals without their input – including the pacts with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, and  clandestine visit to Saudi Arabia.

There is also concern that Netanyahu strained ties with Washington – over his close ties to former US President Donald Trump, and furious condemnation of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal that was negotiated with Iran during Joe Biden’s term as Vice President.

One of Biden’s first actions after his January 2021 inauguration as President was to halt US weapons sales to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which had a controversial part of the Abraham Accords that raised concern over Israel’s retention of a regional Qualitative Military Edge (QME).

During his talk to his faction, Lt. Gen. (res) Gantz, who formerly served as IDF Chief of Staff, accused Netanyahu of exploiting the Iranian nuclear dispute “as if it were his own personal property.” Despite such efforts, Gantz said that the “Mossad and the IDF have been displaying creativity, independent of Netanyahu” and asserted that “We are building an offensive, defensive and intelligence response and will know how best to protect Israel.” He went on to say that the best strategy to prevent the Islamic Republic’s acquisition of atomic arms is via “an ongoing dialogue with the U.S. and Europe as well as with Arab countries that share our concerns and interests.”

The Israeli Defense Ministry declined TV7’s request for comment about Gantz’ reported talks in Jordan, while the Blue and White faction confirmed his “recent visit there” but provided no additional details.