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Jordan and the wounds of peace

Nov 05,2019 - Last updated at Nov 05,2019

When Jordan forged the peace treaty with Israel, it thought that the treaty would be part of a wider, comprehensive peace in the region. Yet, it is easier said than done. The region is plagued by mistrust, disappointment and, indeed, missed opportunities.

Whether Jordan miscalculated is a different question. But, I vividly remember then-prime minister Abdul Salam Majali justifying his government’s signing of a peace treaty with Israel by saying that “we buried the alternative homeland once and for all”. It seems that was a far cry that came on the heels of the successful conclusion of peace between those that were once described as “the best of enemies”.

Twenty-five years have elapsed since the signing of the peace treaty. While the peace agreement survived the ups and downs of the regional turmoil, there is a sense, perhaps on both sides, that the two countries are on different divides. Explicit and implicit in statements made by Jordanian officials is that Jordan is not happy at all with Israel’s evasiveness. Obviously, Israelis do not want to understand that it is almost impossible to decouple the Israeli-Jordanian bilateral relations from the deteriorating Israeli-Palestinian track. Israeli officials have adopted policies that only fed Jordan’ fears about the real intentions of Israel.

Perhaps Jordan made a mistake when it banked too much on peace with Israel. Here, we should distinguish between the fact that the peace agreement remains intact and the fact that the peace agreement has yet to deliver much bigger dividends. On the whole, the Jordanian public is disenchanted with the peace treaty.

Of course, many Jordanians have internalised that Israel is the one that pulls the trigger behind the scenes. A quick look at what has been written in Israeli press shows that Israel wants Jordan to play a key role in the “deal of the century”. However, reality is way more complicated than Israelis think. For Jordan, to agree to be part of a deal that would only chip away at its identity is a nonstarter. More importantly, the economic pressure on Jordan only made people more resilient in their opposition to the “deal of the century”.

Ever since he ascended to the throne, His Majesty King Abdullah has consistently called for the need for a two-state solution as the only game in town. However, the internal shifts with the Israeli society have catapulted the hardliners into prominence. This reality has only fed Jordanians suspicion that Israel may seek a final resolution of the Palestinian problem at the expense of Jordan’s identity and interests. Seen in this way, Jordan should rethink its position with regards to Israel instead of letting the wounds of peace drag on.

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