Jordan says Israel disavows behavior of top minister over flag of expanded borders

AMMAN (Reuters): Jordan said it has received assurance from Israel that the behavior of a top cabinet minister, who spoke at a podium adorned with an Israeli flag that appeared to include Jordan, did not represent their position, an official source said on Tuesday.

The source told Reuters that top Israeli officials rejected Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s move during a speech on Monday, and said that they respected Jordan’s borders and Israel’s peace treaty with Jordan. Smotrich heads a religious-nationalist party in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-right coalition.

The UAE on Tuesday condemned the finance minister’s statements as well as his use of a map of Israel that includes lands from Jordan and the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation affirmed the UAE’s rejection of inciteful rhetoric and all practices that contradict moral and human values and principles, state news agency WAM reported.

The ministry stressed the need to confront hate speech and violence and noted the importance of promoting the values of tolerance and coexistence to reduce escalation and instability in the region, the report added.

The Arab League also condemned the Israeli minister’s statements. The Assistant Secretary-General for Palestine to the Arab League, Saeed Abu Ali, said in a statement these statements by Smotrich represent a racist and colonial stance, and considered the statements a blatant threat to peace and security in the region.

The Assistant Secretary-General of the Arab League stressed the need to be alert to the seriousness of these Israeli policies and the importance of confronting them with firm international stances and measures in support of the rights of the Palestinian people.

Amman late on Monday summoned the Israeli ambassador in Jordan and said Smotrich’s move was a provocative act by an “extremist” and “racist” minister that violated international norms and Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel.

“These statements are provocative, racist and come from an extremist figure and we call on the international community to condemn it,” Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said at a news conference.

Safadi received a call from Israel’s national security adviser, assuring him that Israel — which shares the longest border with its neighbor to the West of the Jordan River — respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country, the source said.

Smotrich made the speech as Israeli and Palestinian officials met in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh for de-escalation talks ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish Passover holiday.