A Jordanian move that spells weakness

October 23, 2018 by Eyal Zisser - JNS
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The late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin saw the 1994 peace ‎treaty with Jordan as one of his most important ‎diplomatic achievements, if not the most important ‎one…writes Eyal Zisser/JNS.

Eyal Zisser

Unlike the scepticism he expressed over the ‎Oslo Accords and then-PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat’s commitment to them, ‎Rabin was sure that King Hussein would live up to his ‎word. ‎

There is something symbolic in the ‎fact that on the anniversary of Rabin’s assassination according to the Hebrew calendar, King Abdullah ‎announced that he would not renew one of the annexes ‎his father signed 24 years ago, leasing agricultural ‎borderlands to Israel.‎

The Jordanian announcement is neither a big surprise ‎nor a move that has far-reaching strategic ‎significance. After all, these are Jordanian ‎lands, and it stands to reason that Jordan would have ‎reimposed its sovereignty over them at some point, ‎as no country in the Middle East would ever agree to ‎relinquish territories over time. ‎

Saudi Arabia did the same with respect to Tiran ‎and Sanafir islands, which were administered by ‎Egypt for years before Riyadh reimposed its ‎sovereignty over them ‎in 2017.‎

The problem, therefore, is not in the move, per se, ‎but in the manner and timing in which the Jordanians ‎chose to declare they were essentially disavowing ‎the spirit of the 1994 peace agreement and turning ‎their backs on the partnership forged between Rabin ‎and Hussein.‎

This was not a complete surprise. After all, the ‎Jordanians are very hostile towards Israel compared ‎to populations in other Arab countries, ‎and regrettably, the Jordanian regime does not even ‎try to deal with this hostility. Facing a myriad of domestic ‎challenges, the regime prefers to allow public opinion to lash ‎out at Israel and hopes this will soften the ‎criticism leveled at it on other issues.‎

At the same time, no Arab country is as dependent on Israel as Jordan, certainly in ‎terms of energy and water resources and on questions ‎of national security. ‎

Moreover, no Arab state maintains such ‎tight, albeit clandestine, strategic cooperation ‎with Israel as Jordan does. Israel welcomes this ‎cooperation; its importance is immeasurably ‎greater than the acres of agricultural land over ‎which Jordan now seeks to regain control. ‎

Overall, this is not a move that truly harms ‎Israel’s interests, which is why Jerusalem is showing ‎patience towards the hostile winds blowing ‎in its direction from Jordan. ‎

Nevertheless, the Jordanian move is as much a show ‎of Abdullah’s weakness as signing the peace ‎deal was a show of his father’s strength. ‎Israel should maintain the same strategic ‎cooperation with Jordan as it always has; still, ‎our eyes have been opened.

Eyal Zisser is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University.

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