ANALYSIS: What’s Become of the Peace Between Israel and Jordan?

Not only has the peace between Jordan and Israel turned cold, it looks to be on the verge of collapse

ANALYSIS: What’s Become of the Peace Between Israel and Jordan?
Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90

Jordan ‘celebrated’ the 25 anniversary of the peace treaty with Israel by recalling its ambassador to the Jewish State.

The move is highly symbolic for the state of affairs in the relations between Israel and Jordan 25 years after the peace agreement was signed by the late King Hussein and the slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin in the presence of former US President Bill Clinton.

In Israel, there are those like Ksenia Svetlova of Mitvim, The Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, who agree with Jordanian anti-Israel activists that the deterioration in the relations between the two countries is solely to blame on the Netanyahu government which allegedly misses every opportunity to increase cooperation with the Hashemite Kingdom.

Svetlova recently visited Jordan and came to the conclusion that Israel doesn’t prioritize cooperation with Jordan in the field of tourism (including medical tourism), water and high-tech.

The Mitvim policy fellow reported that her “Jordanian interlocutors had a hard time understanding why Israel was shaking off the important alliance with all its might”.

“The peace agreement with Jordan, just like the Jordan River tends to dry up over time unless efforts are made to nurture it,” wrote Svetlova in an op-ed for The Jerusalem Post while making clear she was on the Jordanian side about the question who’s really to blame for the very cold peace that has emerged since 1994.

Ariel Kahana, writing for Israel HaYom, strongly disagrees with Svetlova and claims the cold peace has its advantages.

“Israel offers Jordan the strategic backing it needs to deal with the threats it faces; it supports the preservation of Jordan as the Hashemite Kingdom, and it opposes the “Jordan is Palestine” concept,” Kahana wrote.

“Israel further lends Jordan a powerful status on the Temple Mount, sells it natural gas at floor rates and provides it with significant water supply, as well as enables European goods heading to Jordan to pass through the Haifa port and land crossings,” he added.

On the other hand, Jordan keeps the tensions with the Palestinians from boiling over, Kahana claims and added that this true in particular when it comes to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem

Kahana then finally addressed the real root cause of the strained relations between the two countries.

“Why is the climate acerbic? Because every public step King Abdullah takes to signal warming ties with Israel will meet with scathing domestic criticism, to the point of rattling the throne,” according to the Israeli journalist.

The Jordanian King is dealing with increasing opposition to his regime something that has been underreported by both Israeli and international media.

Take for example what happened this week in Jordan where protesters in Ramtha threw shoes (a very humiliating act in Muslim countries) and stones at giant billboards with photos of King Abdullah.

The protests in Ramtha were followed by gun battles between opponents of Abdullah’s regime members of the Bani Hassan tribe, and regime forces in the city of Zarqa, Jordan’s third-largest city.

To divert attention from the many failures of his regime to solve severe economic and social problems Abdullah uses the Palestinian issue to protect his rule over Jordan which is home to a Palestinian majority and roughly 1.5 million Syrian refugees who were taught to hate Israel.

In March this year, the King made clear he sees himself as the patron of Jerusalem which he still seems to regard as a part of Jordan.

“Jerusalem and the future of Palestine are a red line for Jordan. I don’t think I can make it any clearer… As a Hashemite, how could I (possibly) relinquish Jerusalem? That is impossible. It is a red line. (I say) a resounding no to (relinquishing) Jerusalem,” Abdullah said at the time.

Religious Israeli tourists visiting Jordan had already to fear they would be humiliated by Jordanian border police that has a habit of stripping them of religious items such as yarmulkes and other head coverings as well as prayer shawls and religious books.

But now Israelis also have to fear they will be arrested once they enter Jordan.

An Israeli citizen was arrested on Tuesday for “illegally” entering Jordan.

The Jordanians refused to say how the Israeli ‘illegally’ managed to cross the border but Nidal a-Taani, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Jordanian Parliament, bluntly admitted that the arrested Israeli could be used as a bargaining chip.

A-taani was referring to two Jordanian citizens of Palestinian descent who were arrested by Israeli security forces on suspicion they were involved in serious security offenses.

The arrest of the Israeli coincided with the end of the lease of two parcels of land known in Israel as Naharayim (in the north) and Tzofar in the southern Arava desert which were leased by Israel from Jordan under the 1994 peace agreement.

Jordan last year announced it would not extend the lease of the two parcels of land because of domestic opposition against the peace deal with Israel.

At the same time, Jordan is careful not to end security cooperation with Israel because it fears an influx of Islamists from Syria. For this reason, both Jordan and Israel asked President Donald J. Trump to keep some US Special Forces in southern Syria near the Jordanian border.

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