October 26 marked the 21st anniversary of the Jordanian-Israeli peace deal. From a wider strategic perspective, the 1994 U.S.-sponsored Wadi Araba Peace Treaty can be said to have some sort of validity, but what is undeniable is that it has failed to make Amman and Tel Aviv ‘normal’ neighbors.
There is still uneasiness and troubled diplomatic relations between Jordan and Israel, indeed due to the inseparability of the Palestinian cause from Jordan’s internal and external policies and, in a lower degree, the little-mentioned Israeli harassment of Jordan.
The deal’s anniversary has never been celebrated or commemorated in Jordan especially this year with the Jewish settler attacks on Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site which has been under the Hashemite custody for almost a century.
Strangely enough, whether Jordan will one day scrap the peace deal is a question that is decided in Tel Aviv more than in Amman.Raed Omari
As was the case last year, Jordanians have remembered the deal with a call on their government to abolish it, citing Israel’s disregard of its provisions, mainly those related to Jerusalem. Even among Jordan’s conservative politicians, including those who co-authored the deal, there is rising skepticism about the feasibility of the peace treaty.
‘Treaty of shame’
Israeli unilateral actions in Jerusalem, seen as an attempt by Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right coalition to change the decades-old status quo in and around the al-Aqsa compound, have prompted Jordanians to take to the streets in large numbers never witnessed in the security-concerned kingdom for almost three years. Islamists, leftists and un-politicized citizens came out in the capital and across the kingdom, condemning Israel and calling on their government to abolish the “treaty of shame” with Israel. Even among the political elite in Jordan, there was talk about annulling or freezing the deal as one of the options Jordan can have in hand to respond to Netanyahu’s recent moves.
Meanwhile, the deal’s 21st anniversary has been commemorated in the Israeli media with an unmistakable call on Netanyahu’s government to stay on good terms with Jordan, citing the kingdom’s strategic importance to Israel. Netanyahu himself had reportedly agreed on Jordan’s proposal to install surveillance cameras around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and his affirmation to keep the status quo untouched has been to calm Amman.
But Jordan has other strategic issues in its ties with Israel, including borders, water and refugees and having them unresolved yet, is the major reason behind Amman’s inability to be content with its peace deal with Israel.
The Wadi Araba deal is of strategic importance to Israel more than to Jordan. The deal offers Israel security on its eastern border with Jordan that extends to more than 600 kilometers. Not a single security incident has been made public on the Jordanian-Israeli border since 1994. Tel Aviv has always voiced a keenness to bolster Jordan’s interests in the deal, but never acted accordingly. It is still challenging Jordan over Jerusalem and by refusing the two-state solution.
Jordan’s aim behind the peace deal was to end the exhausting state of “no war and no peace” with Israel, as well as securing new sources of economic and military assistance from the West. Jordanians were promised that peace will be fruitful but they gained nothing even after they began to learn Hebrew and normalize themselves with Israelis. Strangely enough, whether Jordan will one day scrap the peace deal is a question that is decided in Tel Aviv more than in Amman. For the time being, the deal is a strategic choice for Jordan through which it can oversee its custody over Jerusalem.
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
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