Israel-Jordan peace agreement: The emperor has no clothes

Israel sees Jordan as a security asset, because Jordan acts as an eastern buffer zone between the Jewish state and the violent chaos in Iraq, Syria and Iran. Israel is making a big mistake.

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Dr. Mordechai Kedar,

Dr. Mordechai Kedar
Dr. Mordechai Kedar
Eliran Aharon

From Israel's prime minister down to the lowliest clerk, from the Commander in Chief down to the lowest ranking officer, from the Mossad down to the police by way of the Shabak – since 1994, everyone has been been chanting the same mantra about peace with Jordan. The prevalent reasoning is that peace with Jordan is Israel's most important strategic resource for the following reasons:

1.Security: The 500 kilometer border between Israel and Jordan is Israel's longest border with another country, reaching from Hamat Gader and the Yarmouk River in the north down to Eilat in the south. Jordan makes sure the border is quiet along its entire length and prevents hostile forces from approaching it and continuing west into Israel. If not for the peace declared between the two states, Israel would have to keep large forces along the border to guard it from infiltration.

Israel sees the very existence of Jordan to its east as a security asset in itself, because Jordan acts as a buffer zone between the Jewish state and the violent chaos in Iraq, Syria and Iran.

There is full cooperation between the Jordanian and Israeli armies, including visits by officers, the handing over of information, and coordinated activity along the border, under the assumption that radical groups are a shared enemy. In exchange for this, it is said, Israel played a part in guarding Jordan's northern and eastern borders during the years 2014-16, the period when ISIS posed a threat to Jordan.

2. Jordan is the second Arab nation to have signed a peace treaty with Israel, proving that Israel can find itself accepted in the Middle East as a sustainable country with whom former enemies can make peace by rethinking their previous positions. This could occur despite the August 1967 Khartoum Arab summit where it was declared that the Arab nations would not recognize Israel, would not negotiate with Israel and would not make peace with it. King Hussein of Jordan was a party to these decisions but carried on negotiations with Israel, recognized it and signed a peace treaty, as did Egypt before him. The obvious conclusion is that any Arab nation can do the same, making peace with Jordan a significant accomplishment,

3. There is a wide array of cooperative ties between Israel and Jordan, mostly in the economic sphere.  Three issues are involved: a. Israel has a multi-billion dollar contract with Jordan according to which it sells gas extracted from Israel's Mediterranean gas fields to Jordan's electricity company; b. Israel recognized "Qualified Industrial Zones" in which Israeli funds are invested, Jordanians are employed and Americans are the buyers, providing employment for thousands of Jordanian families; c. cooperative ventures such as the Water Canal, tourism, flights, trade and academia – thousands of Israeli Arab students attend Jordanian Universities and their degrees are recognized in Israel.

In exchange for recognition, Israel granted the Hashemite Kingdom, and especially its king, special status in the Jerusalem sites considered holy by Islam, mainly the al Aqsa Mosque, giving Hussein and his son Abdullah today, a significant stamp of approval in the Islamic world. This stamp of approval is especially important in granting much-needed legitimacy to the Hashemite Kingdom. The Palestinian majority and even some Bedouin groups question that legitimacy, since the Hashemites are not originally Jordanian, having come from the western section of the Arabian Peninsula, Hijaz, where the two Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina are located.

The British gave the Transjordan Emirate to Abdullah I, great grandfather of today's Abdullah. He is considered a foreign transplant, giving rise to questions of legitimate rule, and the special status at al Aqsa is intended to give him a shot of legitimacy, stabilizing his regime. The king pays the salaries of hundreds of Jerusalem Waqf officials.

Another payment Israel took upon itself is the handing over of 50 million cubic meters of drinkable water to Jordan every year. The plan was to bring this water from the Sea of Galilee, but the drought of the last few years has lowered the level of the water in the lake, so Israel has substituted expensive desalinated water instead.  Jordanian agriculture in the Jordan Valley is made possible in part because of this Israeli water.

All the points raised here give Israel the feeling that the peace agreement with Jordan is successful, certainly more successful than the one with Egypt, with whom there is much less cooperation on non-security related issues. Israel's payment for this by handing over water and securing Jordan's status in Jerusalem is one Israel can handle in exchange for the premise that peace  with Jordan serves Israeli interests. All the parties to Israel's government are united in supporting the maintenance of peace with Jordan at all costs.

Where did we go wrong?

The first and main point is that Israel ignores the fact that the peace agreement is totally dependent on the continuation of the illegitimate Hashemite dynasty. In 1994 that meant Hussein, today it is Abdullah II, but the future is unclear, because there are quite a few people in Jordan and outside it who see Abdullah as the last Hashemite monarch. What comes next? There are several possible answers to that query, ranging from a military junta made up of local Bedouin ruling the various populations, on to a civil war that leads to the country splitting in two, with a Palestinian state rising in the northwestern part of the country where there is a Palestinian Arab majority.

It is no secret that the Palestinian majority in Jordan is opposed to the peace treaty with Israel.  One reason is the recognition a treaty grants Israel and another is the fact that it does not include the so-called "right of return" of the 1948 refugees to within Israeli borders, including compensation for the possessions they left behind them and the years of suffering they underwent in refugee camps.

The Palestinian majority in Jordan feels no commitment to the peace agreement; it was signed by King Hussein, not by them. For this reason, most of the professional associations in Jordan – lawyers, journalists, doctors and others – do not allow their members to partner with Israelis. Most of their members are Palestinian Arabs who see the peace agreement as the result of the king's betrayal of their cause.

The peace agreement upon which Israel and Jordan are signed and everything Israel has paid, is paying and is willing to pay to preserve and guard that peace will be utterly worthless the day a rebellion breaks out against the king, or some assassin or  suicide bomber, G-d forbid, succeeds in killing him. The house of cards Israel built around him will collapse instantaneously, the peace agreement and any others signed in its wake will become fond memories. Whoever takes the king's place will restart the process and expect Israel to pay even more than it had originally paid – that is, if the country remains united. If that new leader is a Palestinian Arab, the price will entail the return of a significant number of 1948 refugees to the state of Israel, not to the Palestinian State that may exist by then.

The king knows full well that the possibility that he could be assassinated by a Palestinian Arab, as his great grandfather was in 1951 in Jerusalem, is not farfetched. That is the reason his armed bodyguards are not Arabs, but members of  the Circassian ethnic minority who stem from the Caucasian Mountain region and do not have their eyes on the throne, meaning that they are not suspected of planning to murder the king or poison his food. The king's mistrust of the Palestinian Arabs, who make up the majority of his subjects, has led him to keep them out of the armed forces, police, foreign ministry and especially from internal security organizations and intelligence.

There are several Palestinian Arabs in the government and parliament who serve as token representatives, but the majority of them know exactly what the Hashemites think of the majority of Jordan's citizenry, those who define themselves as Palestinians – never calling themselves Jordanians because that is used for Bedouin, viewed as lower class by the Palestinians, who are farmers and city dwellers.

The Palestinian Arabs in Jordan are the economic engine of the country. They make up most of the merchants, manufacturers, businessmen, lawyers, accountants, academics, journalists, arts and media personalities, and they generally avoid contact with Israel and Israelis. They conduct a consistent and strict boycott of Israel. The king respects their position for two reasons: One, he has no way to force the peace agreement upon them, and two, he is quite content to show Israel that the peace agreement is not secure because of Palestinian opposition, allowing him to demand more and more from Israel in order to guard its interests and keep the king in power.

The cost of the peace agreement to Israel is prohibitive. First, Israel respects the status it granted the kingdom in Jerusalem, even though there is no precedent in  the entire world for a sovereign state granting another country special rights in its capital city on that state's most holy site. In 1994, when this was decided during the peace talks, Israel wasn't worried about Hussein who hated Arafat and agreed with Israel that there must never be a Palestinian state. The status Israel granted him on the Temple Mount was in order to prevent Arafat and the Islamic Movement from taking over the site.

King Abdullah II has  turned Jordanian policy around and is an ardent supporter of the establishment of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria., one that will be able to look over at Israel and threaten it with missiles and short range mortars that hit from Dimona and Beer Sheva in the south, up along the coastal plain from Ashkelon, the Ashdod port, greater Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion airport, to Haifa and its port and all the way to Afula and  Beit She'an. Long range weapons will threaten all the rest of Israel. Abdullah is actively creating a strategic threat to the state of Israel that will most probably be ruled by Hamas, which won most of the seats in the Palestinian legislature in 2006 and led a violent takeover of Gaza in 2007. Abdullah would like to see these scenarios repeat themselves, a most realistic possibility.

King Abdullah displayed his hostility towards Israel overty in two recent events. This past March he freed the Jordanian soldier who, in cold blood, murdered seven school girls from Beit Shemesh in 1997 as they took part in a class trip to the "Peace Island" (!!!) in Naharayim. His father, King Hussein, came to pay a condolence visit to the families in Beit Shemesh, while his son let the murderer go free. What price did he pay for this slap in the face to  Israel? Zilch. Nothing.

Jordan acts against  Israel as a matter of course in international circles, especially UNESCO and the UN Human Rights Council, two places that constantly attempt to delegitimize Israel. Jordan encourages and pushes for the decisions that deny Jewish tradition in Jerusalem, undermining the historical and religious foundations for the existence of the Jewish State. This is meant  to spread the feeling in the world that Israel's establishment is a result of British colonialism, one that must be cancelled so that "Falestin" is restored to its "historical owners" – the Palestinians. Abdullah, like the Palestinian Arabs, thinks that if he succeeds in removing Jerusalem from the State of Israel, the resulting demoralization will send the Jews packing.

Establishing a Palestinian Arab state that will threaten Israel's security and destroy the Jewish state, is the strategic objective of King Abdullah, because it will prevent a Palestinian State from arising in Jordan. If a Palestinian state is created in the hills of Judea and Samaria, the king intends to get rid of all the Palestinian refugees who entered Jordan in the 1948 war, about one and a half million people, plus several hundred thousand who entered Jordan over the last seventy years. Demographic pressure in the Palestinian state will become terrorist pressure that turns life in Israel into  Hell  - exactly what Abdullah wants.

He coordinates his activities with Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas, seeing eye to eye with them on the main goal – destroying Israel in order to save the Hashemite Kingdom from becoming a nation of Palestinians.

We would do well to  remember what most of us have long forgotten: The clueless group of irresponsible Israeli politicians who gave Jordan its unconditional and unlimited special status in Jerusalem is the same group whose idiotic policies brought terrorist Arafat back from the garbage bin of politicians in Tunisia and granted him the closest thing to a state, The stars of this stellar group included Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin and Alon Liel,who dragged Yitzchak Rabin into the most dangerous poitical trap, endangering the continued existence of the State of Israel.

Jordan today, it must be concluded, is working non-stop behind the cover of its peace treaty with Israel to destroy the Jewish State and create a Palestinian one instead. What is worse is that Israel refuses to admit to the situation and continues most carefully to keep the agreement, hoping calm will prevail along the border until the next elections. Every politician knows that if, during his term, relations with Jordan deteriorate, the media – our shallow, slanted and agenda-ridden media – will accuse him of being the cause of the agreement's nullification, making him pay the  price in the next round of elections. That is why politicians bolster up the temporary tactical quiet, ignoring the strategic threat to the very existence of the state posed by the peace agreement.

If Israel's leaders felt endangered by the actions of Abdullah, they would do something to prevent his destructive activities, cleverly disguised as military and economic cooperation.  The problem is that in their view, short term tactical advantages are preferable to attending to strategic problems that affect the long term. We are all going  to pay a high price for this way of running things on the part of Israel's decision makers – as can be seen by the security equipment crisis last month in Jerusalem.

King Hussein was all for Israel's continued existence and did not question Jerusalem 's status. That's why peace with him was positive in general. His son Abdullah changed his father's strategy and works tirelessly to create a Palestinian state on the ruins of the destroyed Jewish one. Now that King Abdullah's nefarious scheme has been revealed, Israel must rethink its Jordanian route and work to create a Palestinian Arab state in all or part of Jordan, since the majority of the people there are Palestinian Arabs.

The alternative is establishing a Palestinian state on Israeli territory with its capital in Eastern Jerusalem, a strategic danger to Israel. 

There is no reason that the Jewish people, who returned to its land after 2000 years of exile, should  pay with its very existence for the survival of the Hashemites brought by the British from Hijaz to rule the most artificial country in the world – Jordan.

Translated by Rochel Sylvetsky








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