Where is Jordan's relationship with Israel heading?

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Jordanians didn't hide their feelings towards Israel's latest assault on the Gaza Strip, launched on 5 August 2022, before a ceasefire was reached two days later.

In a series of mass demonstrations, and opinions expressed across social media, Jordanians demanded that their government take concrete steps to stop Israel's military attack, one of at least five major military operations since 2009 that have killed over 4,000 Palestinians.

Many also called on their government to cancel the 1994 Wadi Araba treaty, the water-for-energy deal, agricultural agreements between the two countries, and the planned multimillion-dollar 'Jordan Gateway' project - an Israeli-Jordanian private free trade zone.

Some also demanded the closure of the Israeli embassy in Amman.

"Jordan has to answer a strategic question: Where is the relationship with Israel heading?"

One day into Israel's assault, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi stressed the need for the international community to take immediate steps to stop Israel's widely-condemned attack on Gaza, and to provide protection for Palestinian civilians there.

Official ministry spokesman, Ambassador Dr Haitham Abu Alfoul, warned that there could be dangerous consequences to Israel's escalating aggression, adding that a solution to the problems in the Gaza Strip, and preventing an upsurge in violence, lay in finding a genuine political endpoint.

This meant, according to Abu Alfoul, returning to the negotiating table in order to achieve a just peace on the basis of the two-state solution and lifting the unjustifiable siege on the Gaza Strip.

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Jordan's mixed messages

"Jordan has to answer a strategic question: Where is the relationship with Israel heading?" political analyst Oraib Al Rantawi, the founder and director of Al-Quds Centre for Political Studies based in Amman, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arabs's Arabic-language sister publication.

"And does Israel pose a threat to Jordan's national security, identity, and integrity as a political entity and state? And are relations between the two sides on an upward trend, or are they heading for collision?"

Al Rantawi believes answering the first question would determine Amman's response to the others.

"Currently, the Jordanian state is sending conflicting messages regarding its relationship with Israel. On the one hand, it takes bold, clear stances on Israel's assaults, the two-state solution, Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Hashemite custodianship," he said. 

"On the other hand though, it is building strategic relationships with Israel in sensitive and core sectors, for example, the water-for-electricity deals, the energy agreement, the industrial park, and others, as though the issues of contention are secondary."

Demonstrators raise Palestinian flags as they march in the Jordanian capital Amman in April 2022 [AFP via Getty]

He added: "If the disputed issues between the two states were merely tactical, then the government's stance would be correct, but if they are existential and strategic, and could have damaging ramifications for Jordan’s future existence, a different political path should be forged, which doesn't place our necks in Israel’s jaws", as he puts it.

Moreover, he warned that this relationship, if not governed by a strategic vision, would continue to operate on a day-to-day mentality, and not with a "strategic and rational [long-term] perspective".

As for Jordanian public opinion, Al Rantawi stresses that Jordanians are overwhelmingly united on this issue; around 87 percent of the population consider Israel to be the biggest threat to the Arab region's security and view Israel as a dangerous enemy.

Therefore, it is imperative that the state answers these key questions about its bilateral ties with Israel, says Al Rantawi.

He also highlights that Israel doesn't want the show of unity amongst Palestinians last May to be consolidated.  The summer of 2021 saw an unprecedented mobilisation of Palestinians across the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and within Israel.

"Around 87 percent of the population consider Israel to be the biggest threat to the Arab region's security"

Israel fears the possibility that newly strengthened ties between the armed resistance and Jerusalem could alter the rules of engagement between Israel and Gaza, and wants to be the one in control of Palestinian behaviour.

Israel wants to continue dealing with the Palestinian people and factions separately and to break any possibility of effective Palestinian deterrent capabilities.

It wants to return to the old 'rules of engagement' – where Tel Aviv can strike and assassinate at will without having to anticipate a united Palestinian response from political factions and across the different segments of the population fragmented by Israeli policy.

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Condemning the violence is not enough

Jordanian writer and journalist, Mohammed Sweidan, said it was clear that the latest round of Israeli aggression in Gaza aimed to break the capabilities of Palestinian factions, and showed Israel's wish to impose a new reality on Gaza and the Palestinian people.

He pointed out that even states which had recently normalised relations with Israel had described the assault launched in August as aggression.

Jordan, as a country more sensitive to the Palestinian cause than most, has a duty to try to force movement politically and diplomatically on multiple fronts, he added, because the issues at stake go far beyond the Islamic Jihad group.

In reality, Israel is attempting to bring the entire Palestinian armed resistance to its knees, he said, warning that if Israel succeeds then other solutions proposed by the Arab region in the past, like the two-state solution, would be pushed even further out of reach.

A picture taken from the Israeli side of the border fence in Naharayim also known by Jordanians as Baqura, shows a Jordanian military outpost as well as Israeli and Jordanian flags. [Getty]

Arab interests lie with Palestine

As for the Arab world, Sweidan believes that countries who have established relations with Israel, or that plan to, need to realise that Israel intends to achieve dominance in the region, and the push for normalisation is an inevitable juncture towards that goal.

Each Israeli military operation is becoming more violent and is carried out with the unconditional support of the United States, he added.

In his opinion, the interests of the Arab world lie in standing with the Palestinian armed resistance, which would make Israel rethink its future policies.

"Israel wants to continue dealing with the Palestinian people and factions separately and to break any possibility of effective Palestinian deterrent capabilities"

Security and military expert Jalal Abbadi, for his part, fears that the Gaza Strip will be afflicted with "the Arab disease" - which he says is fragmentation - especially after the recent attack in which not all factions took part in the fighting.

Abbadi points out that while Israel is committing flagrant human rights violations, the Arab region appears to be in a collective coma, with no one standing by the people of Gaza.

But he adds that "in general, there has never been parity between the forces of an occupying power and the resistance, from Vietnam to Algeria and elsewhere, but victory depends on human efforts and persistence in the defence of a just cause".

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition. To read the original article click here.

Translated by Rose Chacko.

This article is taken from our Arabic sister publication Al-Araby Al Jadeed and mirrors the source's original editorial guidelines and reporting policies. Any requests for correction or comment will be forwarded to the original authors and editors.

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