Jordan's budget: Is increased military spending tied to Israel's war on Gaza?

Jordan's budget: Is increased military spending tied to Israel's war on Gaza?
Jordan has passed the biggest budget in its history, with a significant increase in defence spending amid increasing tensions with Israel. But one analyst has ruled out the two things were related.
3 min read
30 November, 2023
Jordan is one of Washington's biggest recipients of military financing [Getty]

Jordan has passed its biggest-ever budget with a rise in military spending, at a time when the country faces growing challenges from Israel’s war on Gaza and threats of forced Palestinian expulsion.

The kingdom has taken a firmer stance in recent weeks due to Israel’s unprecedented and relentless bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which, before a truce went into effect around a week ago, killed up to 15,000 people.

More than 200 Palestinians have also been killed in Israeli raids in the occupied West Bank.

Amman and Tel Aviv signed a peace treaty in 1994, but relations have plummeted since the advent of one of the most far-right governments in Israel's history last year.

Tightened border security, a review of bilateral agreements, and the recalling of Amman’s ambassador to Tel Aviv have signalled a dramatic deterioration of Jordan’s relations with Israel.

The budget passed last week sees state spending increase to 12.37 billion dinars, or around $17.5 billion.

While no exact figures were made available for military expenditure, a report from The New Arab’s sister site, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, said there has been a "clear increase," stating that "projects related to the military apparatus and security forces" accounted for 16.9 percent, which would in this case account for over $2.9 billion.

But while it may seem this was tied to events in Gaza and the occupied Palestinian territories since early October, one Jordanian analyst The New Arab got in touch with ruled out reasons related to Israel.

"Budgets are discussed ahead of time. Jordan has long faced security challenges emanating from southern Syria from sectarian militias and the smuggling [of narcotics]," says Dr Hassan Almomani, dean at the Prince Al Hussein Bin Abdullah II School of International Studies in Amman.

Almomani was referring to Iranian-backed Shia militias present in southern Syria, which fought alongside the regime in Damascus. For years, the kingdom has struggled to contain drug smuggling along its frontier with its war-torn neighbour, and this year resorted to military action inside Syrian territory, killing prominent drug lords.

Almomani also tied the increased defence expenditure to basic military needs, such as recruitment, dismissing that this was an indirect message to Israel.

He did not deny the brewing tensions with Tel Aviv, however.

"Jordan has great concerns regarding a [forced] Palestinian transfer," Almomani said, echoing stern warnings made previously by the monarch and other Jordanian officials about forcefully expelling Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank.

Although the chances are slim, "Jordan could go to war" over this issue, he added.

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Bordering the West Bank, the kingdom absorbed the bulk of Palestinian refugees who fled or were driven out of their homes when Israel was created in 1948, known as the Nakba.

When asked by The New Arab about the beefed-up presence of the Jordanian military along the Israeli border, Almomani said this was necessary to prevent any incursions from happening, or from pro-Palestinian protesters in Jordan from reaching the border.

Regarding US ties to Jordan and US financial support for the kingdom and its military, Almomani also ruled out that this would change after Jordan’s stance on Israel.

"The US has high interests in preserving security and stability in Jordan, this won’t change," he says.

The US is Jordan’s biggest military and economic donor.

In September 2022, Jordan and the US signed a Memorandum of Understanding containing the largest aid package to the Hashemite Kingdom in its history, as the US pledged over $10 billion in foreign aid to be disbursed over the next seven years.