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For Jordan, Trump’s peace plan is now on long-term hold

Jul 02,2019 - Last updated at Jul 02,2019

Now that the US-sponsored Bahrain workshop is over with hardly any result, a sense of relief can be felt in Jordan; one of the parties, aside from the Palestinians, that showed no enthusiasm for the much-hyped peace plan that the White House was putting together for the last two years. Amman took its time before announcing that it was attending the Manama conference. And before that, His Majesty King Abdullah insisted, on more than one occasion, that the two-state solution was the only viable path towards a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

While the Palestinians have made their objections to the US approach clear from the onset, Jordan had its own reasons for resisting the unilateral and preemptive moves that President Donald Trump had taken even before the plan, or at least its economic component, was revealed.

Even before the city fell to Israel in June 1967, the role of the Hashemite dynasty as custodians of Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem was firmly established. That role was enshrined in the 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan and recognised later by the Palestinian Authority. Arab and Muslim nations also underlined Jordan’s special role in Jerusalem as recently as last month in the Mecca summits and other venues.

Trump’s unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has endangered that role, especially when Israel’s right-wing government under Benjamin Netanyahu has looked the other way as Jewish zealots carried out almost daily incursions of the Aqsa Mosque complex in clear violation of the peace treaty. Radical ministers in Netanyahu’s cabinet had talked about allowing Jewish prayers to take place at Al Aqsa, while extreme religious movements in Israel continue to vow to demolish the mosque and build a Jewish temple on its site.

Also under Netanyahu, the Israeli authorities have challenged Jordan’s role by installing electronic gates at the entrance of the complex in July 2017. The gates were later removed. Likewise, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Trump’s special envoy to the region Jason Greenblatt joined Netanyahu on Sunday in breaking open a new tunnel running under the Palestinian village of Silwan that leads to Al Aqsa Mosque. This provocative step was seen as another move by the Trump administration in recognising Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem.

Aside from the sensitive issue of East Jerusalem and the holy sites, Jordan was quick to reject any move in the inchoate Trump plan to settle Palestinian refugees in host countries. With over 2 million registered refugees in the Kingdom, King Abdullah made it clear recently that he will never accept plans to settle Palestinian refugees in Jordan.

As much as this outrageous proposal is anathema to Jordanians and Palestinians alike, its revival by Israel’s far right constitutes basis for genuine concern. So far, Trump’s peace team; Jared Kushner, Greenblatt and Friedman, had implemented to the letter Israel’s extreme-right vision for the future of the West Bank and the Palestinians. Only few days ago Greenblatt, fresh from his Bahrain junket, announced that the West Bank is a “disputed” and not occupied territory. Adding insult to injury, he also called the illegal Jewish settlements “neighbourhoods and cities”.

While losing all credibility, Trump’s peace team appears to have fired its last salvo in Bahrain; hence the sense of relief in Jordan. The perception in Amman is that Israel’s tepid reaction to parts of the economic proposal has faltered further work on the plan. Israel has garnered more than it had hoped for under Trump’s peace team without having to cough up any concessions. Besides, there is the Israeli election in September to be followed by the official kick-off of the US presidential race in November.

While Amman may feel a sense of relief that Trump’s “deal of the century” is now on long-term hold, it recognises the huge damage that his peace team had done to what Jordan considers the core of the Middle East’s endemic crises. The two-state solution is in dire state, and sooner rather than later it will be impossible to implement as Israel expands and builds illegal settlements and may soon annex major parts of the West Bank with US backing.

The fallout from Trump’s reckless moves will be felt for a long time to come and all that Jordan, along with others, can do for now is contain the damage and hope that change will take place in Washington and Tel Aviv in the near future.

 

Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman

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