Are Israel and Jordan ready to turn the page? | JNS
Jordan’s King Abdullah II has often described his country as being stuck between “a rock and a hard place”, referring to war-torn Iraq and the Israel-controlled areas west of the Jordan River. And this has certainly been true for many years, but now that the United States is withdrawing its troops from Iraq and Israel has a new government, Jordan is facing altered realities along its borders.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid last week met his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi at the King Hussein Bridge, where they held ad new water and trade agreements. It came as news broke that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met secretly with Abdullah in Amman the week before.
Efraim Inbar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, believes that while Jordan and Israel could see an improvement in relations with the installation of the new Israeli government, “it is unrealistic to expect to drastic changes, ”and the relationship“ will slowly improve, ”he said.
He notes that Israel and Jordan are linked by common enemies, such as the Palestinian national movement and fundamentalist terrorist groups in the East. The two countries are also linked by common interests, such as maintaining a secure and stable border and joining the 1994 Joint Peace Agreement.
For several years now, Jordan has been in the throes of crises ranging from the collapse of the economy to water scarcity, political instability and even an alleged coup attempt. The King appears to be caught in a Catch-22. If it acts to improve relations with Israel, then it alienates its Palestinian citizens, who make up 70 percent of the country’s population, and risks further political conflict. If it distances itself from Israel, it invites Iranian influence and risks compromising the security, economic and intelligence ties on which Jordan and Israel cooperate.
According to Inbar, Jordan provides Israel with strategic depth and Israel provides Jordan with an umbrella of security.
As such, while Jordan maintains a calm eastern front for Israel and cooperates on security issues, among others, Israel is helping Jordan in a number of ways, including maintaining stability and providing it with water.
Under the newly signed deal, Israel will provide Jordan with an additional 65 million cubic meters of water in 2021, according to Israel’s foreign ministry. The two countries also agreed to increase Jordanian exports to the Palestinian Authority from $ 160 million to $ 700 million.
Bilateral ties are not without problems
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday criticized Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett over the deal, saying Bennett “does not understand that when he gives him water, Abdullah is giving gas to Iran “.
But Bennett retaliated by saying, “You say that a leader of Israel sometimes has to face other nations in the interest of Israel. What is the Israeli interest for which MP Bibi Netanyahu destroyed our relationship with Jordan? “
Indeed, the bilateral relationship between Israel and Jordan is not without its problems.
Relations between Netanyahu and Abdullah have become frosty in recent years, especially under the Trump administration, when it comes to Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and Israel’s ties to the Arab Gulf states are crumbling. are improved with the agreements of Abraham.
As recently as March, Abdullah’s son Prince Hussein bin Abdullah canceled his planned visit to the Temple Mount due to a disagreement with Israeli authorities over his safety.
The next day, Jordan blocked Netanyahu from crossing his airspace on a historic visit to the United Arab Emirates. The visit would have been canceled Therefore.
And soon after, Jordan released a statement denouncing Jewish visits to the Temple Mount.
“We are fixing the relationship,” Bennett said.
The United States also appears ready to reset its relations with Jordan. Abdullah is due to visit the White House on July 19, which, according to the Biden administration, “will highlight the enduring and strategic partnership between the United States and Jordan.”
Inbar thinks Jordan is “playing a game, and we should learn to live with that game like we did with Egypt. We must be fully realistic about the limits of peace with the Arab countries. “
Iranian influence in Jordan is “shocking and radical change”
According to Edy Cohen, a researcher in inter-Arab relations at the BESA Center at Bar-Ilan University, Jordan seems to be turning away from the Gulf countries and turning to Iran, which is not a good sign for Israel.
Cohen says Abdullah seems to believe that opening the door to Iran will save Jordan from its troubles.
As proof, Cohen pointed out the June summit between Abdullah, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Baghdad, where they announced a cooperation agreement on the transport of Iraqi oil by pipelines from Iraq through Jordan to Egypt, d ‘where it will be exported to Europe.
According to Cohen, the deal is just a fig leaf for Iranian influence. “Iraq is irrelevant because it is controlled by Iran, so we are talking about Iranian oil,” he said.
In his view, the fact that Abdullah brings Iranian influence to Jordan is “a radical and shocking change”.
He also noted that Abdullah visited the tomb of Jaffar Ibn Abu Taleb.
Taleb was Muhammad’s cousin, and his shrine is considered holy by the Shia faith. But because the Sunni faith disapproves of visiting burial grounds for worship, the practice is prohibited. King Abdullah’s visit is therefore seen as an opening to Iran, according to Cohen.
Like Inbar, Cohen also referred to the “game” Jordan is playing. “Maybe this is just a game to blackmail the Gulf countries,” he said. The Jordanians say, “If you don’t give me what I want, I will turn to the Iranians. “
“That’s what happened,” Cohen adds. “Let’s wait a month and see if this really happens. “
“Everything that happens in Jerusalem affects Jordan”
Moshe Albo, a Middle East expert at the IDC Institute for Policy and Strategy in Herzliya, told JNS that Jordan “understands that its stability is a strategic asset to Israel, and the last thing Israel wants is this. are Iranian militias or Palestinian terrorist organizations on the border. “
Albo says the main point of friction between Israel and Jordan is the Palestinian issue: “Everything that happens in Jerusalem affects Jordan. Abdullah’s power stems from his Islamic heritage as a Hashemite and Jerusalem is one of them.
Albo seems to agree with Inbar and Cohen that Jordan is “playing a game” in which it feels it must criticize Israel in order to appease public opinion. “This criticism does not always affect strategic ties,” he said, noting that the Israeli-Jordanian relationship is a complicated game of common interests, appeasing the Jordanian and Palestinian public, with Jordan presenting itself as the protector of the Palestinians and mosques on the Temple Mount.
Albo believes that the new Israeli government is “an opportunity to renew strategic ties” with Jordan. “It’s important that the leaders meet,” he said of Bennett’s recent secret meeting with Abdullah in Amman. “It is important for management to coordinate.
He says the water deal “is an act of goodwill” on Israel’s part and a message to Jordanians that Israel is ready to improve relations “because we have common interests and we want to see the stable kingdom ”.
The deal, he concludes, “is good for Jordan, good for the Palestinians and good for Israel.”