Egypt Region International Economy Opinion Culture Focus Travel Sports People Time Out Chronicles Cartoons Letters
Making up in AmmanBy Lola Keilani
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's remarks last week, suggesting that Jordan could again ally itself with Iraq as it did in the second Gulf War, were denounced by the Jordanian government and opposition parties alike. According to Jordanian officials, Netanyahu's statement had to be clarified before the right-wing prime minister could proceed with his scheduled visit to meet King Abdullah II on Sunday.
Jordanian Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh told reporters prior to Netanyahu's visit that his statements were "rejected by Jordan". He added that the "character of our relations with the rest of the world including other Arab counties, is the sole business of the kingdom, and we will not tolerate any interference in the matter by any foreign country."
In a lecture held at Bar-Ilan University on Thursday, Netanyahu said: "Jordan, under King Hussein, who was truly the knight of peace, a man who made peace with us and even wanted to do so in 1990. Peace was in his nature. In 1991, he joined Saddam. Why? Because Iraq was very strong... What will [a nuclear Iraq] do to its neighbours? What will it do to Jordan? It will put the whole region in danger and the eastern border as well."
Before arriving in Jordan, Netanyahu said that his words had been misinterpreted and that his speech had been concerned with the issue of Iraq's weapons capabilities, "that could affect the stability of the whole region." He added, "The late King Hussein was an outstanding example of real peace -- a wonderful person and a great statesman and leader. I am sure that King Abdullah will continue in his father's footsteps."
Jordanian Television reported that the government had accepted Netanyahu's clarification and would allow the visit to go ahead as scheduled. But Jordan announced that the king would not join Netanyahu and Tarawneh at a news conference planned after the meeting.
Following the meeting between the two prime ministers, Tarawneh said, "Between the prime minister and myself, I think we've clarified the whole thing on the lecture [at Bar-Ilan] and the statements."
However, the Israeli visit was not welcomed by the lower house of parliament, whose members attacked Netanyahu for interfering in the kingdom's internal affairs and trying to polish up his image at Jordan's expense for election purposes.
"These statements show the mentality of the right-wing Likud which aims at creating unrest in the country and the region," said deputy Ahmed Ajarmeh.
The Israeli premier was invited to Amman by King Hussein in 1996, just ahead of elections, a move that many viewed as a tacit endorsement of the Likud candidate after Jordan had grown frustrated with the Labour government's indecision on several issues in the peace process.
Tarawneh told reporters that Netanyahu's visit should not be interpreted as an expression of preference for certain candidates in the May elections. "Our policy vis-à-vis Israel and any other country, is that we do not interfere in their internal affairs," Tarawneh said. "We are not here to invite candidates or parties, because [Jordan] is not part of the Israeli elections. Those who want to come are welcome... But we do not initiate such invitations to anyone."