Jordanian King Abdullah II confirmed on Sunday reports that he had secretly met with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett earlier this month, adding that he also sat with Defense Minister Benny Gantz shortly after the formation of Israel’s new government.
Speaking during an interview with CNN, Abdullah said he was “encouraged” by his talk with Bennett, though he does not anticipate any immediate progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace.
“It was important for me not only to meet with the Palestinian leadership after a war — which I did with Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] — I met the prime minister, I met General [Defense Minister Benny] Gantz. We really have to get back to the table,” he said.
He said that his meetings with U.S. President Joe Biden in the White House last week, it was “under that umbrella of how do we get Israelis and Palestinians to talk.”
Realistically, though, he conceded that “this government may not be the most ideal government to, in my view [advance] a two-state solution, which I think is the only solution,” presumably referring to its internal ideological contradictions.
The king noted the need to rebuild Israeli-Jordanian relations, “because it has not been good.”
Abdullah’s comment on civil disorders in mixed Israeli-Arab cities during the Gaza fighting was a new element.
“Since 1948, this was the first time I feel that a civil war happened in Israel,” he said. “And I think that was a wake-up call for the people of Israel and the people of Palestine, that unless we move along, unless we give hope to the Palestinians… the next war will be even more damaging.”
Abdullah skirted the issue of the talks in Vienna aimed at salvaging the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
“There are legitimate concerns in our part of the world on a lot of portfolios that the Americans are hopefully going to be able to discuss with the Iranians,” said Abdullah.
“The nuclear program affects Israel as it does the Gulf,” he added, noting that Iranian ballistic technology has targeted much of the Middle East, including “Israel from Syria and Lebanon to an extent, and what misses Israel sometimes lands in Jordan.”
He also revealed Iranian drone attacks on Jordan, as well as “increased cyber attacks on many of our countries.”
“We do know that the talks in Vienna have been slightly postponed until this new government in Iran settles in,” Abdullah said. “I have a feeling that where the American position is and the Iranian position is, is somewhat far apart.”