Israeli Defence Ministry Benny Gantz is set to visit Jordan amid rising tensions between the two countries over plans to annex areas of the occupied West Bank and the strategic Jordan Valley, according to a report by London-based Arabic language news outlet Rai Al-Youm.
The report was also picked up by Israel’s Channel 12, which reported Gantz’s trip could involve an audience with King Abdullah II and a visit to the Jordanian capital, Amman.
According to the report, if the trip is confirmed, it would be the Israeli defence minister’s first international trip since he the new government was formed in April.
Tensions between Israel and Jordan have risen in recent weeks as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 1 July date for starting the process of annexation looms.
King Abdullah II has warned that Israel’s annexation plans could spark a “massive conflict” between the neighbouring states, while his Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi has said any unilateral move by Israel undermines the two-state solution and could cause “a violent conflict”.
Israel’s Channel 13 reported on Saturday that Jordan could recall its ambassador to Tel Aviv as a first step of retaliation if the self-declared Jewish state starts the process of annexation.
The US administration, however, has said it is unwilling to greenlight the unliteral takeover of parts of the West Bank and Jordan Valley without Gantz’s support, according to a report by Channel 12.
The channel also said the US is seeking approval from Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi before supporting annexation plans.
Gantz has historically been an opponent of unilateral annexation but has shown a softening of opinion towards the issue in recent weeks.
On 1 June, the Israeli defence minister ordered the army to intensify preparations to deal with the potentially violent fall out from annexation.
In a statement, Gantz said: “Preparations by the Israel Defence Forces should be stepped up ahead of pending diplomatic moves regarding the Palestinians.”
Meanwhile the US administration, traditionally a supporter of Israeli annexation, last week asked Netanyahu to “greatly slow the process” while President Donald Trump deals with domestic tensions over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on 25 May.
During a conference call with Netanyahu, US presidential adviser and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, reportedly warned the Israeli prime minister to “downplay the enthusiasm” for annexation.