News from July 5 to July 11

Israeli PM Bennett reportedly meets with Jordanian King Abdullah, Israeli-South Korean vaccine deal, and honorable mentions

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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett reportedly traveled to Jordan to meet King Abdullah in secret:

What happened? Last week, Israeli media reports emerged claiming Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett secretly traveled to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah. Importantly, the pair reportedly negotiated and reached an agreement that would see Israel provide an additional 50 million cubic meters of water a year to Jordan (Israel already provides about 55 million cubic meters a year under the terms of the 1994 Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty). The meeting comes as Foreign Minister Yair Lapid also traveled to Jordan to meet his counterpart to discuss the water arrangement as well as a separate deal to increase Jordanian exports to the West Bank. Both Prime Minister Bennett and King Abdullah are set to travel to Washington this summer. 

Why is this important? Under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s relationship with Jordan deteriorated, especially over the past few years. As you may recall, Israel and Jordan had a diplomatic spat earlier this year when Israeli officials refused to allow the Jordanian crown prince’s security team into the country ahead of a planned visit to the Temple Mount. Afterward, Jordan refused to allow then-Prime Minister Netanyahu’s UAE-bound plane to cross Jordanian airspace. Jordanian and Israeli officials have also clashed on Temple Mount policies, water allocations, and the latter’s policies towards the Palestinians for some time now, leading King Abdullah to describe relations between the two countries as “at an all time low” in November 2019.

King Abdullah. Source: European Union 

Even though the relationship has been rocky in recent years, the Israel-Jordan relationship carries substantial strategic importance for both countries. For one, the countries rely on each other for security cooperation as both benefit from stability. They also share water resources, are important trade partners, and generally prefer quiet along their shared border. Restoring and improving the relationship between Jordan and Israel was clearly a priority for Bennett and Lapid, and their efforts appear to be paying off; on a recent phone call with new Israeli President Isaac Herzog, King Abdullah said that he was satisfied with the new Israeli government’s efforts to rehabilitate relations. 

Anything else? Bennett and Lapid’s Jordan policy is the first example of a clean break from their predecessor in foreign policy. Another area where Bennett and Lapid appear to be making changes is Israel’s Iran policy. Prime Minister Bennett reportedly ordered the security establishment to review Israel’s Iran strategy ahead of Bennett’s meeting with Biden later this summer. 

Further reading:

Israel agrees to swap vaccines with South Korea after deal with the Palestinian Authority collapses:

What happened? As you may recall from a few weeks ago, Israel had agreed to swap soon-to-be-expired vaccines with the Palestinian Authority (PA) in a deal that would have netted Israel an equal quantity of doses later in the year. The logic behind the swap was that Israel’s vaccination rates have plummeted and the unused doses would expire if they were not sent where they were needed quickly. After initially agreeing to the deal, the PA backed out, saying the doses were too close to their expiration date, though many suspected that the PA’s true motivation was to avoid criticism that it was collaborating with Israel. Last week, Israel agreed to send about 700,000 doses that would expire at the end of July to South Korea in exchange for an equal number of vaccines later this year. 

Is this story significant? Where can I read more about it? This episode is a good example of how blindly partisan politics can sometimes really interfere with good policymaking. I’m not sure I can explain this better than Yair Rosenberg, who wrote an excellent piece this week explaining how the entire fiasco came to be, and I encourage you to read it here. He does a great job of breaking down the different political factors and what could (and should) have happened differently.

Honorable Mentions:

“How Orthodox Jewish Voters Helped Eric Adams Win the N.Y.C. Primary Battle” by Etan Nechin (Haaretz)

“Teachers’ unions are increasingly debating Israel — and in some places are backing boycotts” by Andrew Lapin and Gabriel Greschler (JTA)

“Former Egyptian First Lady dies at 88, Israeli officials send condolences” by Gadi Zaig (The Jerusalem Post)

Broken bodies and grieving souls: A rabbi cares for the dead in Surfside” by Louis Keene (Forward)

“University of Chicago’s Jewish community reels with 1 student missing in Surfside and another killed by a stray bullet” by Ben Sales (JTA)

“It's Time to Admit It: The Left Has an Antisemitism Problem” by Jonathan Greenblatt (Newsweek) (Greenblatt is the CEO of the Anti-defamation League, the premier antisemitism watchdog)

Report: Palestinians compile long list of preconditions for restarting talks with Israel” (JNS)

A rally against antisemitism hopes to present a united front, but its message on Israel has driven away some left-wing groups” by Ron Kampeas (JTA) (For more on the rally, which occurred yesterday, check out this article)

“Orthodox Jewish ace from Long Island expected to be picked in MLB draft” by Zach Braziller (NY Post)

“Israeli officials: Belgium airport scare likely Iranian test of Israeli security” (The Times of Israel)

“Djokovic sweeps past Israeli-born Shapovalov in tight Wimbledon semifinal” (The Times of Israel)

“Twitter Deplatforms White Nationalist Nick Fuentes” by Aaron Bandler (Jewish Journal)

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