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Jan 19, 2018 | 19:28 GMT

3 mins read

Israel: Government Sends An Apology To Jordan

(Stratfor 2018)
Forecast Update

In Stratfor's 2018 Annual Forecast, we said that external players such as the United States and Egypt would continue attempts to broker a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. As part of this effort, the United States appears to be offering firm support in exchange for encouraging Israel to maintain peace with its neighbors, such as Jordan.

As Israel grows more secure about the Trump administration's support, the country has begun mending fences with its neighbor, Jordan. Israel recently sent Jordan a memorandum expressing regret over the killing of two Jordanians at Israel's Amman embassy during the summer. Following the incident, Israel brought home the security guard involved in the killing, while Jordan closed the embassy and sought criminal charges. The affair has tested the relationship between the two, as Jordanians have pressed King Abdullah II to demand the return of the security guard so he can face trial.

Israel's rare public apology has given the king a chance to reopen the embassy and still maintain domestic support. In a region where symbolism remains politically potent, the apology benefits both sides by allowing Abdullah to claim a victory in the name of the victims, while also letting Israel show commitment to its peace treaties with its neighbors. Furthermore, the memorandum underlines just how high a premium both Jordan and Israel place on maintaining peace with one another (even after Abdullah condemned the U.S. declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital).

Washington's decision on Jerusalem and its increased pressure on Iran both likely contributed to Israel's unusually conciliatory mood. Such evidence of U.S. support has Israel's right-wing elements feeling more secure about the stability of their country than they did when former U.S. President Barack Obama was in office. The Trump administration, which is getting high marks from everyday Israelis, may well have leveraged that support by encouraging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to patch up relations with Jordan, a move that would benefit ongoing U.S. attempts to broker a Palestinian-Israeli peace deal.

The current U.S.-Israel dynamic has precedent: former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who did not have a reputation as a peacemaker when he entered office in 2000, famously withdrew settlements and troops from the Gaza Strip in 2005 under pressure from President George W. Bush. Sharon's bold move would have been unthinkable if not for the reassurances he received from Bush, another American president popular in Israel for his perceived willingness let the country solve security challenges on its own terms.

But if the United States is hoping a patch-up between Jordan and Israel will nudge along the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, it's overlooking obstacles within the Palestinian camp. Political parties Hamas and Fatah have yet to make a unity deal, as the two sides maintain opposing stances about how to respond to the American decision on Jerusalem. And without an established Palestinian representative, peace negotiations will struggle.

Still, Israel can overlook that for now. A secure frontier with Jordan, with whom it must cooperate to secure water supplies as well as prevent militant infiltration, is currently a greater priority. So, with an apology and an expression of regret, Israel has prevented the further disruption of that relationship.  

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