Jordan and Israel are currently marking the 25th anniversary of the peace treaty signed by them, amid relations between the two countries reaching an unprecedented low. This is despite security coordination being at its peak and fears over the royal throne in Jordan due to the popular and parliamentary calls to end the agreement with Israel.
The following article will present an account of the agreement between Amman and Tel Aviv, achievements, failures, gains, losses, the future of the agreement, and how the security relations between the two countries survived despite the current political estrangement.
This important occasion is an opportunity to read the mutual interests between Jordan and Israel, given the fact that the strength of their historical and strategic relations has lasted for many decades. However, the question that remains is: Why haven’t the Jordanian and Israeli sides, in all of these years, succeeded in creating warmth between the two based on their peace treaty? This is evidenced by the fact that neither Amman nor Tel Aviv held a celebration to mark the anniversary.
With the marking of a quarter of a century since King Hussein of Jordan and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the agreement under the auspices of US President Bill Clinton, there are growing Israeli calls for Israel’s need to rescue this treaty. This is because it will provide security stability for Israel’s eastern front.
While the deep security and intelligence relations between Amman and Tel Aviv remain unchanged and are even clearly increasing, the Jordanian unions are boycotting Israel and Jordanian officials have not visited Israel in years. Moreover, the Jordanian parliament is witnessing anti-Israel statements and calling on the Jordanian government to cancel the peace treaty.
The peace treaty with Israel is not very popular in Jordan and the majority of its inhabitants consider as working for the interests of the king, not the people. Therefore the objection to the treaty increases the pressure and criticism the opposition directs at the ruling family.
These calls are not binding for the Jordanian government, but they are an expression of the prevalent status of the Jordanian public opinion. It also binds the hands of decision-makers in the kingdom regarding normalisation with Israel. Even though there is strategic peace between the two sides, recent years have shown the Israelis losing sight of the importance of this agreement.
Twenty-five years since the signing of the peace treaty, the Israelis view Jordan as being in great distress, suffering from a difficult economic situation and lacking water and energy resources. Despite this, Israel has not extended much help or aid to the Jordanians.
It is worth noting that the decline in Israeli-Jordanian relations at the time when they are marking the 25th anniversary of the peace treaty contradicts the secret relations between Israel and the Hashemite family, which began before the establishment of Israel. Although both sides have admitted that the peace treaty achieves mutual interests for both sides and is of strategic importance given the unrest in the Middle East, none of them are doing enough to strengthen the agreement and prevent the deterioration of relations.
Moreover, the recent calls from Israeli security, political and research circles urging decision makers in Israel to pay more attention to Jordan and its weakened state, as well as to the escalating internal issues facing the king, either due to the political stalemate between the Palestinians and Israelis, the continued Israeli violations of Al-Aqsa, or the Syrian and Iraqi refugee issues. They have urged decision makers to stop any actions that add pressure on the king, such as Israel’s provocative statements.
We could consider this treaty as the cornerstone of Israel’s security and foreign relations and a manifestation of behind the scenes relations between Amman and Tel Aviv dating back 30 years.
The relationship between Jordan and Israel can be described as strategic, as both countries share long borders and have Western approaches. Over the past decades, and despite the major regional changes, the threats that they face remained similar and preserving the royal family in Jordan, its border, stability and sovereignty remain at the heart of the Israeli security philosophy.
The Israelis maintain that the existence of Jordan, with its current leadership, prevents the emergence of an anti-Israel government and prevents the spread of chaos that threatens Israel’s borders. It also stresses that this preserves security on these borders and prevents any infiltrations or security violations. Therefore, Jordan is seen as Israel’s guard at the gate of the West Bank and the security and strategic borders extending hundreds of kilometres on the eastern side.
On the other hand, Jordan views its relationship with Israel as a benefit that allows it to effectively face regional and internal threats as well as thwart potential threats originating from Israel itself.
Today, one of Jordan’s issues with Israel is that it does not help Amman resolve its economic crises nor does it use its relations with the US and Europe to lend a helping hand. This has prompted Jordan to threaten not to extend Israel’s leasing of the agricultural land located on the border between the two countries. This has caused an escalation in tensions between the two.
Gilad Sharon, son of the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, called on Jordan to reconsider demanding the return of the leased agricultural land on the border, as this would require Israel to issue a harsh response. He said: “Diplomacy is a delicate matter, so the Jordanian king should be told very gently: If you push Israeli farmers out of Naharayim and Tzofar, you will remain thirsty. Not Abdullah personally, in the palace, he will, of course, continue to serve chilled mineral water in glass bottles covered with dew beads…But the people of the kingdom will feel the thirst.”
There are other voices in Israel keen not to lose Jordan; they say that Tel Aviv can provide assistance to Amman alongside security cooperation by facilitating measures to transport its goods to European markets through Israeli ports. It can also help by increasing the numbers of Jordanians obtaining entry visas to Israel through the Eilat crossing and employing more Jordanian engineers in hi-tech Israeli companies.
However, one of the main reasons for the decline in Jordanian-Israeli relations is the policy adopted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to normalise relations with Arab countries without making progress in the political process with the Palestinians. This is an erroneous policy because the current state of the relationship between the two countries after signing the peace treaty confirms the difficulty in separating the Jordanian and Palestinian arenas from each other.
Jordan is the Arab country with the longest borders with Israel and the most stable and calm borders, but the change in the kingdom’s internal situation may destabilise the region and have a negative impact on Israel’s security. This is because Jordan’s main fear stems from the spread of the Israeli right-wing which calls for resolving the Palestinian cause using Jordanian soil.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.