When Heba Labadi and Abdulrahman Meri, the two Jordanian detainees released by Israel on Nov. 6, crossed the Allenby Bridge, they looked as if they won the unending battle for public opinion. Indeed, Labadi’s hunger strike and the public pressure in Jordan did their part — the Hashemite Kingdom returned its ambassador from Israel and forcefully demanded the return of two of its citizens who had been arrested separately on suspicion of security breaches. Finally, Israel conceded to the Jordanian demand and released the two. Soon the Jordanian ambassador will return to his residence, and relations between Amman and Jerusalem will be restored — until the next crisis. On Sunday (Nov. 10) Israel is expected to return to Jordan the Naharayim and Tsofar farmland enclaves, after Jordan refused to renew the lease.
This crisis raised a number of questions: After 25 years of cold but stable peace and close security cooperation, should Israel stop taking relations with Jordan for granted and invest more effort and resources into it? Would it have been possible to prevent this unnecessary crisis in Israeli-Jordanian relations, when the two nations see the agreement between them as strategically important? Did Israel have any other way of acting in face of the built-in tension between its wish to maintain good relations with Jordan and the need to defend national security?