With the Israeli provocations on one side and the unbearable cost of hosting Syrian refugees on the other, Jordan can be said to be living through unprecedented political, economic and demographic dilemmas.
All that can unmistakably be seen now is a marked change in Jordan’s public rhetoric from its long-held diplomacy, euphemism and resilience to a rhetoric of dismay, anxiety, complaint and, more remarkably, irritation.
What contributes to Jordan’s growing weariness and nervousness, in addition to the costly and seemingly long stay of Syrian refugees (and before them Palestinians and Iraqis), is the repeated Israeli assaults on the holy sites in Jerusalem, mainly the al-Aqsa Mosque.
For Jordan, the dilemma is in maintaining a balance between its historic obligations towards Jerusalem and the 1994 peace treaty with Israel. In fact, it is more of a test of endurance.
In April this year, Jordan and Palestine signed an agreement under which the Palestinian side “reaffirmed” the status of King Abdullah as the custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem.
Aside from the consideration of “who is stronger than who,” Jordan is definitely unwilling to terminate the Wadi Araba Peace Treaty with Israel and at the same can not remain silent on Israel’s assaults on al-Aqsa Mosque and its violations of the 1994 agreement in which the kingdom is stipulated as the official custodian of Jerusalem’s holy sites. It is such a big diplomatic challenge.
In light of the weakening joint Arab action, America-supported Jordan is realistically unable to terminate its U.S.-sponsored peace treaty with the U.S.-allied Israel. This is the whole case in brief.
Now, back to Jordan’s public line on the Syrian crisis.
It is true that Jordan has been complaining about its inability to handle the refugee spillover of the ongoing Syrian crisis, but the official posture of the resource-limited kingdom is now overtly marked with dismay and frustration. It actually seems to be saying: “Enough and enough.”
Jordan’s western challenge
Dismayed by the Israel’s provocative measures, Jordan has officially complained to the U.N. about the occupation authorities’ repeated violations against al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site.
For Jordan, the dilemma is in maintaining a balance between its historic obligations towards Jerusalem and the 1994 peace treaty with IsraelRaed Omari
Jordan’s complaint garnered a response from the international community with UNESCO voting overwhelmingly in favor of an Arab draft resolution spearheaded by Jordan and Palestine, calling for sending yet another fact-finding mission to Palestine to investigate Israeli threats to Islamic sites there.
The measure, petitioned by Jordan and approved by 43 of UNESCO’s 58 member states, calls on Israel to halt excavations underneath al-Haram al-Sharif and attempts to demolish or alter the Bab al-Magharbeh gate, the largest entrance for non-Muslim visitors to al-Aqsa Mosque complex.
In the letter Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh sent to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Jordan stressed the need for the international community to send a strong message of objection to Israel, with a warning that its violations against East Jerusalem and al-Haram al-Sharif, the complex that houses al-Aqsa Mosque, will no longer be tolerated.
The outcomes of the UNESCO’s fact-finding mission in Jerusalem are not expected to be abided by Israel as they need to be passed by the U.N. Security Council, where the U.S. is always ready to veto.
What is worth noting is not actually UNESCO’s immediate action as much as it is the language of the kingdom’s strongly-worded complaint to the U.N., indicating the level of anxiety it has reached over Israel’s unilateral measures.
Jordan’s official rhetoric on all the final status issues has focused on Jerusalem, leaving refugees, borders and water matters to be handled with the Palestinian Authority although they lie at the heart of its strategic interests.
But even Jerusalem, which is stipulated in the 1994 peace treaty with Israel to be under the custodian of Hashemite leadership, is not safeguarded by Israel thus increasing Jordan’s nervousness and weariness.
Jordan’s northern burden
The tremendous economic and demographic impact of Syrian refugees is now a major factor in resource-limited Jordan’s official rhetoric on the Syrian crisis. Remarkably, not that much care is given to the political and security impact caused by the ongoing violence in the kingdom’s northern neighbor.
Though still “coyly” and “marginally” touting a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis, the most frequent matter Jordan’s high-ranking officials tackle, with regard to Syria’s dilemma, is the harm caused to their country as a result of the refugee spillover.
The remarkably little talk in Jordan about a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis has to do with the kingdom’s growing conviction of a U.S.-Russia agreement on Syria of some kind.
When it comes to the refugee crisis, the financially-troubled kingdom is feeling as if it is left alone in the face of a non-stop influx of Syrian refugees, increasing already-unbearable economic woes and its already-harmed demography.
In Jordan now, the official talk on Syria is mostly focused on the massive percentage of Syrian refugees that make up the kingdom’s total population.
In his speech to the plenary session of the recent 68th U.N. General Assembly session, king Abdullah said: “The flow of Syrian refugees [into] Jordan already equals one-tenth of our own population. It could reach one million, some 20 per cent of our population, by next year. These are not just numbers; they are people, who need food, water, shelter, sanitation, electricity, healthcare and more. Not even the strongest global economies could absorb this demand on infrastructure and resources, let alone a small economy and the fourth water-poorest country in the world.”
Diplomatically and morally challenged from its west (Israel) and politically, economically and demographically threatened from its north (Syria), Jordan has become remarkably nervous and dismayed, with its official rhetoric marked with complaint and irritation.
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2