An American official acknowledged on Tuesday that Jordanian fighter pilots trained closely alongside their Israeli counterparts at an air force exercise hosted by the US this summer.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon did not directly confirm Jordan’s participation, but he said in a speech on Tuesday that Israeli pilots had trained with “unspecified” Arab pilots in July’s “Red Flag” exercises, which are joint combat training activities hosted by the US in Alaska.
During the course of the drill, Jordanian warplanes flew with Israeli jets, and even refueled from an Israeli tanker in the Atlantic Ocean.
Since Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994, the neighboring nations have quietly enjoyed mutually beneficial security and economic relations. However, neither country has ever acknowledged joint military training, and their friendly governmental relations are not popular among many Jordanian citizens.
Recently, the relationship between Jordan and Israel has been strained over current tensions on the Temple Mount, which is under the management of a Jordanian Waqf. Palestinians claim that Israel is attempting to change the status quo on the Mount, which forbids non-Muslim prayer, and attribute the recent rise in violent terror attacks to Palestinian outrage over the issue. Israel has repeatedly denied that it is interested in changing the status quo.
In an effort to quell the disquiet, Israel agreed to a recent proposal that video cameras be installed on the Mount, ostensibly to monitor non-Muslim visitors for violations of the rule against prayer. Jordan also agreed to the proposal, which was reached through efforts by American Secretary of State John Kerry.
However, the Palestinian Authority immediately rejected the proposal, calling it a “trap” which Israel would use to arrest Palestinians “under the pretext of incitement”. Jordan, in turn, sharply rebuked the PA for its refusal and called the remarks “inappropriate and unfair”.
“The cameras will document everything, including those who want to assault Palestinians or Israelis. The cameras will document anyone who carries out an assault or Jews who want to pray there,” said Jordanian politician Adnan Abu Odeh.
Jordan is not the only Arab state which is looking to build stronger ties with Israel. Recently, Saudi Arabian prince al-Waleed bin Talal said that his country must consider teaming up with Israel against a Palestinian intifada in order to thwart the larger threat represented by Iran. He was quoted as saying, “Saudi Arabia and Israel must bolster their relations and form a united front to stymie Tehran’s ambitious agenda.”