While the July 1 deadline has passed, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to push for annexation of the Jordan Valley and other parts of the West Bank. And neighboring Jordan continues to lead widespread Arab opposition to this move, going so far as to threaten the stability of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty.
But at the end of the day, shared national interests will compel the Hashemite Kingdom to accept Israeli annexation and the long-overdue final demarcation of the Jewish state’s eastern border.
Fear of the ‘Jordan Option’
One of the prevailing arguments against the extension of Israeli law over the Jordan Valley, and indeed against Trump’s “Deal of the Century” as a whole, is that it will destabilize Jordan.
Many in Jordan are worried that the Palestinian majority in the kingdom will exploit the opportunity to advance the “Jordan Option,” which would turn Jordan into the Palestinian state. But these fears are exaggerated.
Foundation of common interests
The Kingdom of Jordan has been a strategic partner of Israel for many years, even before the peace treaty of 1994. There is a strong foundation of common interests, including support for the American presence in the region, opposition to Arab nationalist and Islamic movements, and resistance to the Iranian nuclear threat and Tehran’s hegemonic ambitions in the Middle East.
Jordan has long relied on Israel to deter radical groups that would threaten the kingdom’s security, while Israel sees in Jordan a reliable buffer against the extremists who hold sway to the east of the kingdom.
Israel certainly has no interest in seeing Jordan become another terrorist haven like Gaza, and for Amman, Israeli military control of the Jordan Valley shields it from more radical Palestinian elements west of the Jordan River.
It is also important to remember that Jordan did not refrain from signing a peace agreement with Israel at a time when Jerusalem, which is far more important than the Jordan Valley, had been annexed and placed under Israeli sovereignty. This of course was done on the condition that Israel recognize Jordan’s role in the administration of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.
Since the signing of the peace agreement, Jordan’s attachment to Israel has only increased, as Israel provides the kingdom with water and natural gas, and the Israeli lobby in Washington works overtime to ensure American economic assistance to Amman.
It is difficult for Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states or Egypt to take any concrete steps against Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley in light of the looming Iranian threat and concerns over an American withdrawal from the region. The Arab states know that Israel is the key to closer ties with the Trump Administration, and that the Jewish state remains the most effective bulwark against Iranian expansion.
Voices of opposition are often louder from Jordan, but one must not underestimate the political ability of the Hashemite rulers to quietly and effectively confront the anti-Israel sentiments that are prevalent in the kingdom. They have been doing this already for decades, and with great success.
This is an opportune time for all involved, under the auspices of the world’s superpower, to move beyond old conflicts and prepare to face the looming threats of the future. And for Israel and her partners, this means finally setting sovereign security borders.
Rami Dabbas is a political activist and analyst based in Jordan and a regular contributor to Israel Today.