Israel’s Netanyahu Holds Unannounced Talks in Jordan

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a secret trip to Jordan today to meet King Abdullah and coordinate peace efforts with the Palestinians.

The two leaders discussed defense issues arising from Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and also economic cooperation with Jordan, according to an e-mail from Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu “emphasized that Israel places a premium on security arrangements, including Jordan’s interests, in any future agreement,” according to the statement. Netanyahu has said Israel must protect its eastern flank by maintaining a long-term presence in areas of the West Bank along Jordan’s border, a demand the Palestinians reject.

Abdullah has met Netanyahu several times in the absence of direct contacts between the Israeli leader and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Jordan, the second Arab country after Egypt to sign a peace treaty with Israel, has a considerable interest in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the state-run Petra news agency said.

Israeli and Palestinian teams have been negotiating since July under a U.S.-brokered initiative to reach a peace agreement by the end of April. Secretary of State John Kerry has visited the region 10 times over the past 11 months, seeking to coax both sides into accepting a deal.

Jewish State

In Ramallah, veteran Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath said at a news conference today that an agreement is impossible unless Netanyahu drops his demand that Palestinians recognize the country as a Jewish state.

That’s unacceptable, Shaath said, because it would sacrifice the right of return for Palestinian refugees. He noted that previous peace agreements with Palestinians, Egypt or Jordan did not require recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Netanyahu has said refusal of Palestinians to recognize Israel’s Jewish nature is the root of the conflict and a key barrier to agreement.

Israel plans to build a pipeline that would supply neighboring Jordan with natural gas, two people with knowledge of the matter have said.

Work on the 15-kilometer (9-mile) link is expected to commence in 2015 and be completed in 2016, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. The project was commissioned behalf of U.S. gas producer Noble Energy Inc. and a Jordanian partner, they said.

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