Air Force Pilots Pay ‘Working Visit’ to Israel
Jordanian media reports that pilots from the Royal Jordanian
Air Force conducted a “working visit” to Israel recently.
One pilot, Majdi Asmadi, refused to join the delegation and
was subsequently ejected from the air force, according to the reports, which
were cited on Wednesday by the Israeli daily Haaretz.
The reports quote Asmadi saying he had joined the air force in
order to fight Israel, not visit it or cooperate with it.
His removal, like the trip itself, was not publicized by
officials in Amman. Asmadi reportedly did not receive severance pay after his
His actions earned him widespread praise on Arab social media
networks, and sparked a debate within Jordan over the country’s military
cooperation with Israel.
Jordanian fighter pilots trained closely with their Israeli
counterparts at a US-hosted air force exercise this summer, an American official
said last month in a rare acknowledgment of intimate military cooperation
between the Jewish state and its Arab neighbor to the east.
The US official’s comments, reported by Reuters, came as
Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon more vaguely confirmed the
cooperation in early November. Ya’alon said in a speech that Israeli pilots
trained with unspecified Arab pilots in the course of July’s “Red Flag,”
the latest in a series of joint combat training exercises frequently hosted by
the US in Alaska.
Egypt is known to have participated in previous “Red Flag”
exercises; Jordan is not.
“There were Arab pilots there too, and pilots from the
various branches of the United States military and other countries,” Ya’alon
The unnamed US official quoted by Reuters elaborated that
Jordanian warplanes flew out with Israel’s jets in the course of the drill,
and even refueled from an Israeli tanker over the Atlantic Ocean.
In late October, the Israeli Air Force hosted the country’s
largest-ever international air exercise, drilling against a fictional enemy
The “Blue Flag” exercise, a followup to “Red Flag” in
the US, involves the Israeli Air Force, the United States Air Force, Greece’s
Hellenic Air Force and the Polish Air Force, the head of IAF training exercises
told The Times of Israel in late October. A number of other countries, including
Germany, also sent pilots and officers to observe the exercise but did not take
“Asked whether Jordan… was among the Blue Flag
participants, Israeli military spokesmen declined to comment,” Reuters
reported on November 3. “Jordanian officials also declined comment on both
drills,” it said.
Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994, and quietly
maintain intimate security and economic relations. But they are not known to
have ever acknowledged conducting joint air force training.
While the peace treaty is not popular among ordinary
Jordanians, and is routinely criticized during flareups in the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel and Jordan share many regional concerns,
including over Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the threat posed by Islamic State.