JERUSALEM (Feb. 28)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was dogged by controversy this week, when he held his first working meeting in Amman with Jordan’s King Abdullah.
After Sunday’s meeting, which also included Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon, Netanyahu said that relations between the two nations remain strong.
Just the same, the meeting was overshadowed by remarks Netanyahu made last week in which he was quoted as saying that Jordan might renege on its 1994 peace treaty with Israel and side in the future with Iraq against the Jewish state.
In an effort to squelch the furor that subsequently erupted in Jordan, Israeli officials distributed copies of the premier’s remarks, saying he had been misquoted.
Sunday’s talks were intended to serve as a get-acquainted session between Netanyahu and the new Jordanian monarch, who met briefly during the Feb. 8 funeral of Abdullah’s father, King Hussein.
But before discussions could turn to matters to matters of advancing economic relations and cementing the countries’ peace accord, Jordanian officials requested a clarification of the remarks Netanyahu made last week.
In the address at Bar-Ilan University, Netanyahu recalled that Jordan had aligned itself with Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War. He was quoted as hinting at the implications for the Jewish state of any possible future Iraqi-Jordanian coalition.
Jordan’s King Hussein sided with Baghdad in 1991 “because Iraq was strong. And Iraq of 1991 was a small grain compared to what it will be if it arms itself with nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu was quoted by the Israeli media as saying.
“We would find ourselves with an Iraqi threat on the banks of the Jordan River.”
Before the visit, Netanyahu tried to defuse the situation. He said he believed the peace between Israel and Jordan was stable and that Abdullah would continue in his father’s path.
At a joint news conference with Netanyahu following Sunday’s talks, Jordan’s Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh said he was satisfied with the answers he received from Netanyahu.
“I think we cleared up the whole thing,” Tarawneh said.