Israel nearly found itself at the center of a major diplomatic snafu after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly sought to bar Jordanian flights from Israel’s airspace – a move that was called “borderline insane” by experts in the field, one report said.
The order was never carried out, but Israeli media outlets reported that the premier issued the directive after Jordan delayed his scheduled flight to the United Arab Emirates last week, causing him to miss his meeting with the crown prince.
Aviation officials – recognizing the potential cascade of international consequences – reportedly stalled in carrying out the order before it was rescinded.
Maariv, a Hebrew-language daily, reported that Netanyahu made the decision without consulting cabinet ministers. The story was confirmed by other media outlets.
Netanyahu’s office has not responded to the report.
According to the news reports, the prime minister sent an email through the Transportation Ministry to the Civil Aviation Authority on Thursday, the same day his fourth scheduled trip to the UAE was canceled.
Maariv cited several senior officials involved in the incident, but said Netanyahu changed his mind before the directive was ever carried out.
“It was really down to the wire,” a senior official told Maariv. “You have no idea what kind of international damage would have been done to Israel if this directive had been implemented on the ground.”
The order would have violated Israel’s peace deal with Jordan and other aviation agreements with several countries, including the United States, which fly over Israeli airspace to reach Jordan and other destinations in the region.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Netanyahu’s actions were “detrimental to Israel’s national security.”
“Netanyahu is driven by personal, political motivations and his actions run counter to Israel’s diplomatic agreements,” Gantz said on social media. “This just shows that he has entirely lost his ability to exercise good judgement and is doing everything to look out for himself instead of for the country.”
But the controversy began even earlier when Israel barred a Jordanian crown prince from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Israel alleged that Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah’s security team was larger than had been agreed to and barred him from entering.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi confirmed that Jordan delayed Netanyahu's flight permission to the UAE in retaliation for the prince’s canceled visit to Jerusalem, according to The Times of Israel.
“Safadi accused Israel of violating an agreement on the arrangements for the visit, while Israel has said Hussein arrived with heavier security than promised,” the article said.
On Saturday, Netanyahu insisted that relations between the two countries were positive, saying that “Jordan needs good relations with us no less than we need good relations with Jordan.”
The Jerusalem Post, the sister publication of Maariv, reported:
“Rather than obeying the instruction, the airport officials flatly refused to carry it out, simply posing the Transportation Ministry a series of questions such as: What would happen to planes already in the air that planned on heading to their destination over Israel? Is Israel going to demand US planes also bypass if they come from the east?
“Allegedly, once cabinet secretary Tzachi Braverman was informed that such a move would cause a massive retaliation, he checked with the prime minister only to return with a simple message: Do as Netanyahu said.”
Netanyahu was slated to make the first official visit by an Israeli leader to the United Arab Emirates. This was his fourth scheduled visit that had to be canceled since the two countries signed the Abraham Accords in September.
Nicole Jansezian is the news editor for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS