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The Biden administration and Jordan's options

TOPSHOT - (COMBO) This combination of pictures created on November 04, 2020 shows Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden (L) in Wilmington, Delaware, and US President Donald Trump (R) in Washington, DC both pumping their fist during an election night speech early November 4, 2020. - President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden are battling it out for the White House, with polls closed across the United States -- and the American people waiting for results in key battlegrounds still up for grabs, one day after the US presidential election November 03. (Photos by ANGELA WEISS and MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS,MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
This combination of pictures created on November 04, 2020 shows Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden (L) in Wilmington, Delaware, and US President Donald Trump (R) in Washington, DC both pumping their fist during an election night speech early November 4, 2020 [ANGELA WEISS,MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images]

Jordanian officials must have breathed a sigh of relief at Joe Biden's victory in the US presidential election, as another four years with President Donald Trump in the White House would have been a nightmare for the Hashemite Kingdom. Jordan would have faced two bitter options: to support the deal of the century and follow the agenda set by Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, which would basically mean the end of the Palestinian cause; or clash with Washington — or at the very least, widen the gap between them — and worsen relations with the Arab countries that have followed the normalisation path.

Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi has been busy since the US election. A few days ago, he held a meeting with his Egyptian and Palestinian counterparts in an attempt to restore the roles of Jordan and Egypt. He also aimed to coordinate with the Palestinians in terms of arranging files, coordinating positions and narrowing the gap with the Arab countries that have normalised relations with Israel, in order to rebuild a common Arab discourse.

It is useful to note here that Jordan avoided the path of direct diplomatic confrontation or clear rejection, unlike its rejection of the US Embassy move to Jerusalem against which it escalated diplomatic moves. It has adopted a quiet policy on the deal of the century and the Arab normalisation process. Nevertheless, the Jordanian position did not please the Israelis, the Americans or even the Arab allies who decided to "break the wall" and normalise relations with Israel. Now Safadi's mission is to heal the Arab rift and bring the positions of the Palestinians and the normalised Arab countries closer together to reach a more united Arab position, in light of the new variables. Although it may seem that this is the perfect opportunity given Biden's victory and Kushner's imminent disappearance, the issue is not that simple, neither in terms of the deal of the century and the two-state solution, nor in terms of a common Arab position.

The President-elect's statements and initial positions indicate that his administration will distance itself from the deal of the century and will not put pressure on the Palestinians and Jordanians to accept it. This is comfortable enough for Jordan. However, he will not take the embassy back to Tel Aviv, nor will his administration revive the two-state solution, which has always been the at the top of Jordanian diplomacy. This means that even if the deal of the century disappears off the table officially, it is still the only deal implemented on the ground.

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The Israelis have gained a lot from Trump's presidency and will not give up any of his gifts, such as the embassy move, strengthening the Judaisation of Jerusalem, changing the reality on the ground in the city, and giving green lights for illegal settlements and annexation. They also know that the US position eliminates any real aspects of the promised Palestinian state, while allowing Israel to make peace with the Arabs without having to go through the Palestinians, as was the case with the Arab Peace Initiative. As long as the deteriorating Palestinian and Arab reality serves their interests, why should the Israelis hurry? The Palestinians cannot make even more concessions at a time when they have lost the strategic Arab depth, and only Jordan stands with them diplomatically.

Basically, what the Trump administration did was to go big in the faits accomplis department. Then Arab normalisation took over, ending the central position of the Palestinian cause in the Arab world and as a key factor in the relationship between the Arabs and Israelis. None of that is likely to change when Biden takes over. This will have an impact on Jordan's regional role, which has been based on its geostrategic relationship with the Palestinians and their cause, giving it both importance and room to manoeuvre as an important party in the Middle East.

The Jordanians still have no answer to questions that have been on the table for two decades: What if the peace deal fails and the two-state solution is no longer a possibility? What are the strategic options to protect Jordan's vital domestic and regional interests?

We should not overlook the fact that the Jordanian-Palestinian files overlap, especially with regard to the issue of refugees, Jerusalem, the demographic equation and Jordanian politics. In light of the fact that the Palestinian Authority is no longer able to escape the "functional role" within which it has been framed, it is inextricably linked to Israel's security in exchange for a semblance of "normal" daily life for the Palestinians and the payment of salaries to PA employees. This makes it impossible for the PA to end its security coordination with the Israeli occupation.

In terms of the common Arab position, too much water has passed under the bridge to resurrect this. The very different and oft-clashing perspectives on regional security are obvious in inter-Arab relations. Assuming for the sake of argument that Jordan was able to bridge the wide gap between the normalised countries and the Palestinians, this does not negate the new reality that the Arab countries no longer view the Hashemite Kingdom as central to the Palestinian issue and the Arab position on Israel.

READ: Israel, between the cold of Egyptian peace and the warmth of Emirati normalisation

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

ArticleAsia & AmericasIsraelJordanMiddle EastOpinionPalestineUS
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