Jordan and the Peace Treaty with Israel

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A story in Algemeiner reminds us that the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan has become shakier. It has always been a cold peace, but it now may be frozen, or discarded by the Jordanians altogether.

The story is here.

Relations between Jordan and Israel are at their lowest ebb since the signing of the 1994 peace treaty between the two countries, and the treaty itself is now “at risk,” Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz said on Monday.

“Today, we are at the lowest level in the relationship that has been since signing the peace treaty,” Razzaz said in an interview with CNN. “The peace treaty can go into a deep freeze mode and therefore it is definitely at risk.”

What has the Jordanian government done to convince its own people that the treaty with Israel brings them benefits? Nothing. It has not seen fit, out of fear of the hostile reaction of the Arab street in Jordan, to point out that the treaty has helped the Jordanian economy. First, because of that treaty between Israel and Jordan, the American government, intent on maintaining stability in Jordan, has given billions in aid to Jordan. In February 2019, it pledged a new five-year, $6.375 billion commitment ($1.275 billion per year), beginning in fiscal year 2018 and ending in FY 2022. This represented a huge $275 million annual increase over previous aid packages.

Second, the American government has removed tariffs from Jordanian goods that include a certain percentage of Israeli-made material in the finished product. This has been a way to encourage Israel-Jordanian economic cooperation.

According to Razzaz, Jordan is angry about Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu’s pledge to extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and parts of Judea and Samaria as set forth in the US “Prosperity to Peace” plan, and about Israeli “violations of the sanctity of Muslim and Christian endowments in Jerusalem.”

Israel’s leaders – not just Netanyahu – have been talking openly about annexing the Jordan Valley and other parts of Judea and Samaria for at least the last decade. It should not come as a surprise to Jordan. Israel has a perfect right to annex the entire West Bank, if it were to so choose – that is territory that was assigned to the Jewish National Home long ago by the Mandate for Palestine.

As for Jordanian complaints about Israeli “violations of the sanctity of Muslim and Christian endowments in Jerusalem,” it is unclear what the Jordanians are talking about. There have been no “violations of the sanctity” of any such “endowments.” Israeli police have had intermittently to prevent Arab rioters on Temple Mount from attacking non-Muslims on the Mount, or to stop them from throwing large stones down on Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall below; it is the rioters, not the Israeli police who try to constrain them, who are “violating the sanctity” of religious endowments in Jerusalem.

In January, Jordan’s King Abdullah told France 24 News that Israel’s relationship with his country “has been on pause for the past two years,” a predicament he said was likely due to Israel’s unsolved election issues.

“Because of the electioneering season, which has unfortunately taken a long time, there have been no bilateral communications or movement,” he said. “We hope that the Israeli people will decide on a government sooner rather than later, and then we could all see how to move forward.”

King Abdullah knows that the Israelis are soon going to annex the Jordan Valley. Nothing will deter them. He has a duty to keep the country stable, and that means making the case for the peace treaty with Israel. He must make clear that if Jordan pulls out of that treaty, it will endanger the foreign aid it depends on from the American government. If the treaty ends, Israel will no longer be supplying material for Jordanian products in order that they be admitted without tariffs to the American market. The tariffs will go on again, and Jordanian exports to the U.S. will fall.

Most important is the recent 15-year, 10-billion-dollar agreement between Jordan and Israel, according to which Israel agrees to support natural gas to Jordan at stable prices. This arrangement, according to the Jordanian government itself, will save Jordanians a great deal. The Jordanian government announced after the agreement was signed that securing stable energy prices for the next decade can achieve annual savings of at least $500 million annually and help reduce a chronic budget deficit.

The government sensibly supports the gas deal; no one resigned in protest. But the Jordanian Parliament, wanting to show just how anti-Israel it can be, rejected it. The hatred for the Zionist enemy apparently takes precedence for these lawmakers over the huge benefits — $500 million a year – that the deal would bring to Jordan. Of course these members of Parliament can afford to take such a short-sighted stance; they are confident in the assurance that the government, which has the responsibilities of rule and cannot afford to let hysteria fashion its polices, will ignore Parliament’s vote.

But the government should work to convince more people in Jordan that, whatever they may think of Israel, there are too many benefits to Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel to let it collapse. It should be spreading the news about the economic benefits of the natural gas deal with Israel, pointing out what that 500-million-dollar savings means for the man in the street. A family of four might save several hundred dollars; that’s nothing to sneeze at in impoverished Jordan.

There are other benefits as well. Jordan is one of the most water-starved countries on earth. It has begun to connect the Red Sea to the Dead Sea, in a project that will involve both waste water management and desalinization of the water from the Red Sea. While Jordan is responsible for the project, it is Israel that is footing a large part of the bill. This is another by-product of the peace treaty. Israel has also agreed to supply Amman with 8-13 billion gallons per year of fresh water from the Sea of Galilee, while Jordan will deliver the same amount of desalinated water pumped from Aqaba to Israel’s Negev desert region.

Less publicized but equally important has been the emergence of an excellent defense and intelligence-sharing relationship between Jordan and Israel. While little has been reliably published about it, intelligence sources from both countries say that the quality and depth of such cooperation is one of the treaty’s biggest achievements.

Jordan has much to lose if it ends the peace treaty with Israel. It will lose the American market for many of its exports, a market that was guaranteed to it as long as there was a certain percentage of Israeli input into the final product. It will undoubtedly see American economic and military aid, now at their highest level ever, greatly decreased if Jordan is again seen in Washington not as a partner for peace with Israel but as a potential enemy. The great benefits for Jordan of receiving natural gas from Israel’s Tamir and, especially, Leviathan fields, with a savings of $500 million a year, will be gone. And the defense and intelligence-sharing between Israel and Jordan, so critical to Jordan’s survival in a very dangerous neighborhood, would also be a casualty.

In the end, even after Israel announces – it cannot be long now – its annexation of the Jordan Valley, one hopes that the technocrats and security officials in Amman prevail over the hotheads in Parliament who are past masters at cutting off their noses to spite their faces. .Jordan does not wish to admit it, but in that dangerous neighborhood it is not Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon, nor Iran-dominated Iraq, nor even Saudi Arabia, that is the surest guarantor of its security. That surest guarantor of a stable energy supply, of an adequate supply of water, of an enhanced market for its exports, of continued American economic and military aid, of defense and intelligence sharing cooperation, is the country that has no designs on Jordan but only wishes it well – Israel.

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