Peace with Jordan – stop panicking
Peace with Jordan – stop panicking

The King of Jordan, not some lowly clerk, announced that Jordan will not extend the currently existing leases renting two parcels of land to Israel. One is the so-called Island of Peace in the northern Naharayim area and the other located in the southern Arava, near Tzofar, an agricultural cooperative village (moshav). Jordan was entirely within its rights to decide not to renew the leases insofar as the relevant clauses in the 1994 peace treaty with Israel are concerned, and the only reason the king announced it himself was to give the declaration the weight of a final decision not open to negotiation.  Jordan’s foreign minister added, in his own declaration, that if there are to be negotiations, they will be limited to deciding on the way those areas are to be returned to Jordanian jurisdiction.

Since the publication of the King’s declaration, utter hysteria has overcome the Israeli media and the voices of both broadcasters and those they interview are laced with panic. “Jordan has cancelled the peace treaty!!” “Why is the king doing this to us?” “What will happen to the longest peaceful border Israel has? “ Politicians, on the other hand, are attempting to calm us down on the lines of: “The peace treaty with Jordan is a strategic asset of the first order for Israel,” “ there is no threat to future relations with Jordan,” “Jordan depends on us for its security,” and other similarly irresponsible remarks, the gist of which is that Israel would do anything to preserve the peace agreement with Jordan.

Those media personalities and their interviewees do not realize that when they talk about the importance of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, they are granting the Hashemite kingdom the ability to pressure Israel on more crucial issues, such as a Palestinian Arab state in Judea and Samaria, continuing Jordan’s special status in Jerusalem overriding Israel’s sovereignty in the Holy City and including Jordan as a partner to negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. In its endless search for scoops and hysterical headlines, the media have turned into talking heads whose unnecessary pronouncements ignore the Middle Eastern propensity for raising the price of anything Israel considers important.

The King of Jordan announced the cancellation of the leasing due to internal pressures.  Numerous Jordanians demanded that the leasing of Jordanian land to Israel must end and the king acceded to those demands.  In addition, the king has several “bones to pick” with Israel and the US, especially regarding Jerusalem, America’s recognition of the city as Israel’s capital and its relocation of the embassy. Trump took these steps despite King Abdullah II’s requests to leave the Jerusalem issue to negotiations between the PA and Israel, expecting the city to be divided between Israel and a future Palestinian state. The king was insulted when his request was ignored and looked for a way to punish Israel.

Just recently, the king freed Ahmad Daqamseh, the Jordanian soldier who shot at and murdered seven defenseless Israeli young girls from Beit Shemesh in cold blood in 1997, wounding six others, this despite his life sentence for the deliberate massacre of innocent hikers. Ever since his release, the murderer has become a celebrity, is constantly portrayed as a hero on Jordanian media where he calls on viewers and listeners  to engage in jihad against Israel. Is the king unaware of this? Of course he knows all about it, and one gets the impression that the king views murder as a legitimate form of pressure on Israel.

Official Israel must send a quiet message, through secret channels, to the Jordanian king, saying: “If you wish to toy with the peace agreement your father signed with us, remember that this coin has two sides – because if we get the impression that you are acting against our best interests, we, too, have the right to do the same to you. Israel is not in your pocket, and it might be beneficial to you to begin to think of ways to encourage us to maintain our relationship with you.” This might be the time to remind the king that his cousin Zaid ben Raad, head of the UN Human Rights Committee, constantly comes out with anti-Israel decisions and “we have the unpleasant suspicion that you, dear king, play a part in the committee head’s anti-Israel obsession. We cannot allow someone who acts against us to avoid paying a price for doing so.”

Israel has the means to put significant pressure on Jordan, given that the king and his entourage are naturally most sensitive to any talk of the Palestinian Arab majority existing among Jordanian citizenry - and that majority’s rights to self-determination, thus turning Jordan into a Palestinian state or dividing it into both a Palestinian and a Bedouin entity depending on local ethnicities. Almost everyone residing to the north of Amman and up to the Syrian border and a bit eastward to Zarka, is a Palestinian Arab. What remains after that is mostly desert land populated with Bedouin, the ethnic-cultural minority which forms the base of the king’s power.

At this point it is important to understand: The Peace Agreement signed by Rabin and Hussein in 1994 was based on the mutually-held opinion that a Palestinian State must be avoided at all costs, whether in Judea and Samaria, or in Jordan, because such a state would pose a danger both to Israel and to Jordan. Unfortunately, from the very beginning of Abdullah’s regime in February 1999, he has broken that agreement and become a fervent supporter of establishing a Palestinian Arab state in Judea and Samaria, planning to expel all the Palestinians in his kingdom who want an independent state to that region. As far as the king is concerned, it will be no problem whatsoever if that region turns into a terror state that poses a danger to Israel.

In fact, the king goes from country to country, from leader to leader, attempting to persuade them to force Israel to act against its own existential interests and establish a Palestinian State in Judea and Samaria. His impeccable upper-class British accent makes him seem like a responsible, thoughtful and worthy leader, but his goal is a state on the hills of Judea and Samaria that will threaten Israel with lookouts on the mountains to the west as week as a rain of fire, missiles and rockets on eighty percent of Israel’s population, from Dimona and Beer Sheva in the south, along the length of the Coastal Plain and up to the northern cities of Afula and Beit Shean.  Somehow, there are still Israelis who think that King Abdullah II, present ruler of Jordan, is a friend of Israel. With friends like that, we really have no need of enemies.

Has anyone in Israel found the secret way to tell the king that he is acting in a fashion totally contrary to the spirit of the peace agreement? Has anyone in Israel hinted to hm that he may have to pay a high price for this hostile attitude to Israel? Has someone mentioned the trouble his cousin causes us at the UN Human Rights Committee – at the behest of the king?

That is the proper way to manage relations in the Middle East. We have to carry on quiet negotiations behind the scenes while radiating strength,  making demands and refraining from letting the media know what is important to us and what is less crucial. Israel must tell the Jordanian king that it is recalculating its next steps with regard to relations with Jordan due to his longterm antagonism. For Israel, the continued existence of the Hashemite royal house – whose members were brought by the British to the region from the Hijaz almost a century ago - is only one of several possibilities.

Written in Hebrew for Arutz Sheva, translated by Rochel Sylvetsky, Op-ed and Judaism editor.