JERUSALEM - Despite marking 25 years of a peace treaty, there are growing tensions between Israel and its neighbor Jordan. Israeli officials have long said the peace treaty with Jordan, and the intelligence cooperation that followed, was one of the country’s most significant foreign policy successes.
Neither Israel nor Jordan publicly celebrated the 25th anniversary on Oct. 26, another sign of the growing tensions. Earlier this week, Jordan recalled its ambassador from Israel to protest Israel’s ongoing detention of two Jordanian citizens, Hiba Labadi and Abdul Rahman Miri. Jordan also is holding an Israeli citizen who crossed the border into Jordan illegally.
Labadi was detained on August 20 at the border crossing between Israel and the West Bank, on her way to celebrate a family wedding. Miri was arrested on September 12. Both are being held in administrative detention without charges.
In a statement, Israel’s Shin Bet security service said they had been detained “in light of suspicious of their involvement in severe security violations.”
The Israeli press said Labadi is suspected of involvement with Hezbollah in Lebanon, which Israel considers a terrorist group, while Miri, 27, is believed to be affiliated with the Islamist Hamas, in charge of Gaza. He has battled cancer in the past.
Labadi, 32, has been on a hunger strike for the past month, and has been taken twice to an Israeli hospital where she was given fluids and then returned to prison.
Jordan’s foreign minister Ayman Safadi, issued an angry threat to Israel.
“We hold the Israeli government responsible for the lives of our citizens whose health conditions have severely deteriorated in illegal arbitrary detention,” he wrote. “We will take all necessary legal and diplomatic measures to ensure their safe return home. Administrative detention is illegal.”
In terms of the Israeli citizen being held in Jordan, Israeli media said he was running away from being questioned for alleged criminal activity.
For years, there have been growing calls in Jordan to abrogate the peace treaty with Israel. Oded Eran, a former Israeli ambassador to Jordan, admitted that relations are at a “very low ebb,” but said that both Israel and Jordan both benefit from the treaty.
“Jordan benefits from the supply of water [from Israel], and will soon receive natural gas which will replace the Egyptian gas which has been interrupted because of terrorists in Sinai,” Eran said in an interview. “Also, after Syrian ports were shut down [because of the civil war], Israel allowed Jordan to use its port in Haifa.”
The water supply is especially important, he said, because 1 million Syrian refugees are currently in Jordan and it is unlikely they will return anytime soon.
Israel also benefits from its ties with Jordan.
“In a region which is very unstable, Jordan serves as a buffer zone between parts of Syria and Iraq,” Eran said. “On one hand the relations are very cold, but on the other the strategic interests remain as they were from the beginning and are beneficial to both sides.”
He said that Israel and Jordan have exchanged intelligence information, although did not want to give details.
Eran said that when Israel and Jordan signed the peace treaty in 1994, it looked as if Israel was on the road to a peace treaty with the Palestinian Authority. They had signed the Oslo accords in 1993, which laid out a roadmap to peace.
The lack of any peace agreement, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex the Jordan Valley, the part of the West Bank that runs along the Jordan border, has further angered the Jordanian government. Jordan is especially sensitive to the Palestinian issue as an estimated 60 percent of its population are Palestinians.