While Jordan engages in normalization with Israel, it does not engage in neutralization. Please, do not confuse the two; the feelings, emotions, views, and motivations of the Jordanian people and their leadership remain the same: in full support of the Palestinians, we discovered, however, that our pro-Palestinian message and efforts are best conveyed in an atmosphere of peace and dialogue.
This one has been on my mind for a while. The current political situation in the Middle East is one of the topics I’m truly interested in, and I’ve been writing numerous posts related to the issue. One thing that caught me attention was that I was addressing a lot of Arab concerns against Israel and its regime (which I firmly believe in), and in so forgot to address my personal concerns about Arabic politics when it comes to the conflict.
I also decided to write this after a long conversation I had with a friend (whose also Arab) who believes that Jordanian politics regarding the issue, especially the 1994 Wadi `Araba Treaty, indicates that Jordan (or the government/king) has – in a sense – betrayed The Cause and other Arab countries.
I think that’s a completely wrong approach, and I believe the truth is that Jordan is a pioneer in seeking peace, and a Just Solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Had other Arab countries followed Jordan’s footsteps in large, then Arabs would’ve done their part in promoting a just peace, and stability in the region would’ve been a much more probable reality.
Since I think such belief that Jordan went against the Palestinian Cause (and Pan-Arab Values, fraternity, and unity) is utterly misconceived on numerous levels, I find it hard to find where to start. This is why I’ll divide the post into separate arguments that will hopefully complement each other.
(The outline is basically as follows: 1: Jordan was not alone in pursuing peace in the 1990’s, 2: Jordan did not go against Palestine, 3: While Jordan has peace, Jordan is not a neutral nation, 4: Other Cases of Jordanian Commitment to the Pan-Arab Cause).
1) Jordan was not alone in pursuing peace in the 1990’s
King Hussein of Jordan had Middle East peace aspirations even before the war of 1967. That did not stop him, or the country, from being properly aligned with the Arabs in the war of 1967, where Jordan, lead by King Hussein, entered a full-force war against Israel, and lost a considerable amount of land from the West Bank, which, at the time, was part of the Kingdom of Jordan. (Many people have doubts about Hussein’s intentions in the 1967 war, these will be discussed in future articles). As a matter of fact, while King Hussein talked to Israelis (as did Egyptian, Lebanese, and Syrian officials), he only allowed such talks to translate into a treaty much later on.
While Anwar El-Sadat was alone in signing a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, King Hussein’s 1994 treaty happened in a different light that Arabs of today forget:
After Egypt’s 1979 treaty, Egypt’s membership in the Arab League was suspended, along with diplomatic relations between Egypt and many other Arab States. In 1989, however, the Arab League restored relations with Egypt, which was readmitted into the league. (Timeline: Arab League, BBC News. 2008)
Even more importantly, is the Madrid Conference of 1991 which involved official representations from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine, to negotiate peace.
Even in the 1993 Oslo Accords, Syria was invited to participate, and only refused participation due to the PLO’s participation (per “Oslo Accords: Background” on Wikipedia). I.e. Syria refused pursuing further negotiations of peace with Israel not due to its reservations towards Israel, but rather, the PLO (due to tensions in the Gulf War).
In any case, post 1989, there was a new direction across all Arab countries that aimed to put an end to the conflict. The general direction of most Arab states was, indeed, peace negotiations.
Jordan did not go out of its way in signing the treaty, it is only different from other Arab countries in that it was successful in reaching a treaty.
2) Jordan did not go against Palestine
Then, in 1993, Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat sign the Oslo Accords, which at the time was seen as the end for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Since the Oslo Accords announced an ‘end of hostility’ between PLO (the “sole representative of the Palestinian Peoples”) and the State of Israel, a ‘framework of solutions’ have been laid out.
King Hussein has said that any peace treaty he would sign with Israel would not go against the Palestinian Cause. Since, in 1993, “the Cause” appeared to have been solved (or begin to be solved), the king had no reason not to pursue his country’s own peace with Israel.
Indeed, Oslo is seen to have given the king the green light to pursue signing a treaty.
How could Jordan have gone against Palestine with its treaty of peace, if the Palestinian Authority itself signed its own treaty of peace first? Whatever grievances and grudges held by Arab States against Israel are there as a result of compassion and fraternity towards the Arab Palestinian population. Once the population’s representation (meaning, the PA) expresses its aspirations for settlement and compromise, it is the duty of sister Arab states to stand by the Palestinians in ending the conflict, just as it were their duty to stand by the Palestinians in defending their land in 1948 and 1967.
Some might comment that I refer to the Oslo Accords as if it were a successful treaty, when, in fact, its outcome indicates immense failure. However, I am describing the Oslo Accords as they were seen at the time, by King Hussein and other Arab leaders. Furthermore, the failure of the Oslo Accords, in my view, is not to be attributed to deception on either side, but rather, the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, and the consequent election of fundamentalist (disclaimer: personal opinion), right-wing Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996, running the country in an opposite direction, against the principles agreed upon in Oslo.
3) While Jordan has peace, Jordan is not a neutral nation
I repeat: Jordan is not a neutral nation. Policies of Jordan since 1994 have been consistently pro-Arab and pro-Palestinian.
It is frustrating to see that many thing Jordan has deserted the Palestinian Cause, because as I open my Jordanian newspaper every day, and see developments in Jordanian foreign politics, out efforts regarding Palestine are all I read about.
“Jordan will continue to fight for Palestinian rights — King” says one front-page headline in December, 2009. “Time running out on Mideast” says another, clarifying: “In comments published Monday, His Majesty King Abdullah warned that the window of opportunity for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is very limited”.
In checking the front page of The Jordan Times between December 22nd, 2009 and January 1st, 2010, I have not found a single case where the Palestine did not occupy front-page headline news. More often than not, headline news regarding Palestine is not detached, and often covers government initiatives, speeches by the King, diplomatic visits by the king and government, talks with Abbas, the Israeli government, etc., regarding reaching a solution to the conflict.
When did the last time any non-Jordanian, non-Egyptian Arab diplomat take the time to speak of Palestine instead of his own country on official state visits and speeches? The are a few exceptions, but at large, Jordan is one of the very few countries that is genuinely deeply interested in a Just Solution for the Palestinians.
Or how about this one? In King Abdullah’s Speech to the Congress in 2007, the words “Jordan”, “Jordanian”, etc. were uttered a total of 7 times, compared to the 15 times Palestine was mentioned! And I’m not being silly and just counting words, go ahead, click the link above, and read the speech. This is our king’s speech on a state visit to the U.S. You would think it’d be in Jordan’s best interest to talk about foreign aid, economical reform, cooperation (as do the leaders of the rest of the Middle Eastern countries), but he – representing the position of Jordan in the conflict – chose, and continues to choose the issue of Palestine, making it Jordan’s main mission, in terms of foreign policy. Go ahead, give it a read, this is what Jordan stands for, advocating peace in the Middle East, and a Just Solution for Palestine.
In official state visits to Japan, the EU, and the U.S., the general attitude of news items is along the lines of: “the King stressed the importance of a viable Palestinian state… oh, and by the way, they agreed on economical cooperation”, or something.
Also, Jordan openly denounces and condemns Israeli settlement expansion, as well as Israeli military moves against other Arab nations. In the 2006 Lebanon war, a statement from the Jordanian government denounced Israel’s actions (yes, even though we signed a peace treaty with them):
“Jordan stands against whoever exposes the Palestinian people and their cause, Lebanon and its sovereignty to unexpected dangers. Israel’s use of force against unarmed civilians and the outcome in terms of the human loss and destruction of civil institutions.”
As for the Gaza War:
SALAH BASHIR, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Jordan, said his country felt deep pain and grave concern at the escalation of violence and deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Gaza, […] The military operations were a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and the Fourth Geneva Convention.
I’m not asking anyone to commend Jordan on such quotes, because that’s Jordan’s duty. The point of showing such quotes is to emphasize that Jordan continues to criticize Israel – and harshly – whenever it feels compelled by Arab duty to do so. While Jordan engages in full normalization with Israel, it does not engage in neutralization. Please, do not confuse the two; the feelings, emotions, views, and motivations of the Jordanian people and their leadership remain the same: in full support of the Palestinians, we discovered, however, that our pro-Palestinian message and efforts are best conveyed in an atmosphere of peace and dialogue.
Point is, foreign politics of Jordan is centered around the Palestinian Cause. Saying Jordan deserted Palestine or other Arab States because of its peace with Israel insults the very foundation of Jordanian policy.
4) Other Cases of Jordanian Commitment to the Pan-Arab Cause
Also among Jordanian Efforts, are King Hussein’s interference in the Wye River Memorandum of 1998 (will be discussed in a future article), and his facilitation of the Hebron Agreement that lead to the pulling back of the “IDF”, out of Hebron. Jordan’s aid to the Gaza strip, and continuous donations to Palestine are also among these.
In the Lebanon war in 2006, Jordan’s Queen Alia International Airport was the first and only airport to be used to send aid/relief aircrafts to Lebanon during the war. Countries like the UAE used Jordan as a medium to send its own relief planes soonafter, taking advantage of the safe air passage opened by Jordan to Lebanon, based on negotiations with Israel. Also, In the Gaza War in 2008-09, relief as usual, and a huge blood donation campaign, in which the king was one of thousands to donate blood.
An important example, that shows Jordan’s commitment to the Arab cause, and its proper prioritization of Arab interests above Jordanian interests is the following story:
On 25/09/97, Khaled Mashal, a prominent Hamas leader, suffered an assassination attempt by Israeli Mossad agents, while presiding in Jordan (where he lived between ‘91-‘99). King Hussein threatened to cut diplomatic relations with Israel, and nulling the 1994 treaty of peace if an antidote is not given to Mashal, and indeed, an antidote was supplied. Jordanian authorities also captured the Mossad agents, and released them in exchange of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, founder of Hamas.
Over and out.