In 1962, King Hussein of Jordan, who ruled the country from 1952 until his death in 1999, established a secret radio channel with Israel; eleven years later, on the eve of the Yom Kippur War, he would try to warn Jerusalem of the impending Syrian attack. These early instances of outreach would pave the way to the treaty signed between his country and the Jewish state in 1994. David Makovsky discusses King Hussein’s life and his relations with Israel first with Robert Satloff, and then with Hussein’s grandson, Prince Hassan bin Talal, the brother of the current king. Next Makovsky speaks with Efraim Halevy, who throughout his long career at the Mossad—an organization he would lead from 1998 to 2002—played a key role in communications with the Jordanian monarch. Of particular interest are Halevy’s comments on the tensions between the two countries during the Persian Gulf War, when Hussein and then-Prime Minister Yitzḥak Shamir made Halevy their “trusted intermediary.” (Audio, 43 minutes.)
Three Inside Perspectives on Jordan’s Late Peacemaker King
Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia
Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:
For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.
Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.
The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.
Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.