Why Is the Israeli Right So Threatened by Peace With Jordan?

Noa Landau
Noa Landau
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King Abdullah
Noa Landau
Noa Landau

Ever since Barak Ravid reported last week on the Walla news site about Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s secret meeting with King Abdullah at his Amman palace, some voices on the right have been gripped with a familiar paranoia. They’re worrying that a warming of the cold ties that hit bottom under Benjamin Netanyahu will now cost Israel “dearly” in all sorts of ways.

Some examples: the imposition of, God help us, a peace process with the Palestinians (as if the Jordanians will succeed where Biden doesn’t even dare try); eliminating the alliance with the Gulf States versus the Iranians (both alliances are possible and necessary); ceding the West Bank enclaves (Netanyahu already gave up what anyway is not ours). And they’ve suddenly become tremendously possessive about every cubic meter of water (the waters of the Land of Israel are now apparently just as holy as the land). On “Meet the Press,” Nadav Haetzni called Jordan a country “that functions like an enemy” and in Israel Hayom, Caroline Glick termed the prime minister’s meeting with the king “a humiliation.”

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Throughout the Israeli security establishment, there is near total consensus about the importance of security and diplomatic cooperation with Jordan. The National Security Council under Netanyahu also never minimized the kingdom’s importance when it comes to defending Israel’s longest border. Quite the contrary – they kept highlighting the close ties that existed behind the scenes between the various security agencies, and in the fields of aviation and energy, despite the obviously strained ties on the diplomatic and civilian fronts. In the National Security Council’s annual strategic assessment, “strengthening the relationship with surrounding countries” was cited as a key objective.

The Netanyahu government also sought to employ Jordanians in Eilat and Dead Sea hotels, as a tiny Band Aid to make up for its failure to advance the Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal and Gateway to Jordan projects.

The problem was never a failure to recognize the importance of relations with Jordan, and the fundamental need to rebuild them, but rather the endless arm-wrestling with the kingdom over its involvement and positions on the Palestinian issue and the Temple Mount. And this was coupled with the flagrant abandonment of the civilian sphere of relations, partly due to the paralysis of the Foreign Ministry under the previous government, as well as to a number of diplomatic fiascoes orchestrated by Netanyahu, such as the hero’s welcome given to the Israeli embassy security guard who fatally shot two Jordanians. Of course, the whole annexation plan and the Trump administration’s rollout of its “deal of the century” and the Abraham Accords also contributed to the rift with Jordan.

The right always points out that the Jordanian monarchy, like Jordanian public opinion, is becoming more extreme in its criticism of Israeli policy. This is true. The issue of the occupation has always stood between Jordan and Israel. The Jordanians’ great “crime” in this regard is that they, just like many Israelis, are keen to promote the two-state solution. Historically, this support also derives, of course, from a desire to negate the “Jordanian option” theory that says the East Bank of the Jordan is really the national home of the Palestinians. So Yair Netanyahu’s bizarre allusions to that on Twitter certainly did nothing to help relations.

For years, some on the right have tried to convince us that the Palestinian issue has completely dropped off the agenda and now we can make peace with (distant) Arab countries without them. Now they tell us that the Palestinian issue is actually alive and kicking and therefore we’ll have to give up peace that was already attained with (neighboring) Arab countries. They propose that we go backwards and live by the sword. It is time to return without fear to striving to rehabilitate relations with the Palestinians and with our neighbors.

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