Jordan’s response to President Donald Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” has been quick and unequivocal. Less than an hour after the release of the peace plan at a White House ceremony on Jan. 28, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi issued a statement in which he reiterated Amman’s support for the two-state solution and the Arab Peace Initiative (API) as the only path to a just and lasting settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, without referring directly to the Trump proposal. And he did the same at the emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo on Feb. 1. At the end of the meeting the Arab League issued a statement rejecting the plan.
For Jordan, a close ally of the United States, Trump’s plan poses an existential threat to the national security of the kingdom. In the view of one informed source this was a plan “written by [Benjamin] Netanyahu and offered to Netanyahu.” Besides the Palestinians, who have rejected the plan, Jordan stands to lose the most, unlike any other Arab country. It’s unique and historic association with the Palestinian question puts it in an awkward position where it has no option but to resist attempts to change the parameters relating to the resolution of the decades-old Arab-Israeli conflict.
Jordan understands that Trump’s peace plan is a non-starter. But it fears its long-term ramifications for its own security. The plan intersects with the Israeli far-right vision that denies Palestinians an independent state in the West Bank and looks at the Hashemite kingdom as an alternative homeland. In the view of Jordanian officials, the plan was designed so that no Palestinian could embrace it. But it offers Israel Washington’s political cover to go ahead with full annexation of most Israeli settlements in addition to the Jordan Valley. The fact that such moves are illegal under international law has not stopped Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and special advisor, from coming up with a controversial, to say the least, offer that negates all previous agreements, understandings, and international resolutions.
King Abdullah has made his position clear from the onset. Last year he told representatives of local tribes that he will never accept the settlement of refugees in Jordan, relinquishing his special role in Jerusalem and turning his kingdom into an alternative homeland for the Palestinians. Two weeks ago, before the unveiling of the plan, he said that his position remains the same. “No means no and that is clear to everyone.”
The view here is that if Israel goes ahead and annexes settlements and the Jordan Valley it effectively buries the two-state solution and any chance of creating a Palestinian state in the West Bank. That would leave 2.5 million Palestinians under Israeli control — a demographic threat that the Israeli far right believes should be handled by Jordan either through a direct administrative linkage or even a transfer. Amman rejects both possibilities. Trump’s plan suggests permanent settlement of refugees in host countries; this too is anathema for Jordan, where more than 2 million Palestine refugees live.
Jordan’s immediate approach is grounded in a number of factors. First, it hopes that the Arab position will remain united, although it fears that, despite the Arab League statement, individual countries will behave differently once Washington begins to apply pressure to gain support for its plan. Second, Amman relies on international support for the two-state solution — something that could also change in the future. And third and most immediate, Amman will be watching the outcome of the Israeli elections in March with keen interest. While Netanyahu will begin annexation almost immediately if he succeeds in building a coalition, his rival Benny Gantz has promised to discuss the plan with the Palestinians and Jordan before taking any steps.
One major concern for King Abdullah, who has rejected Trump’s previous moves on Jerusalem and UNRWA, is that his refusal to deal with the plan might affect his ties with the White House and Jordan’s dependence on U.S. military and economic aid, estimated at $1.5 billion annually. Trump’s unpredictable behavior is something that worries Jordan. The king hopes that his personal ties with the U.S. Congress, where Jordan enjoys bi-partisan support, will deflect any negative reactions from the White House. U.S. Democratic senators issued a joint statement on Jan. 28 warning President Trump that his plan “could harm Israel’s relationship with Jordan” and “will also place allies like Jordan in an untenable position.” A number of Israeli commentators and former security officials have also warned that the plan could undermine Jordan’s stability and threatens Israel’s peace treaty with the kingdom.
For now Jordan is hoping that the four-month hiatus concerning the implementation of the plan will change the current dynamics. The Israeli elections are less than a month away and the U.S. is now entering its own presidential elections season. Israel itself is divided over the plan and there is a chance that the outcome of the elections could bring good news for the Palestinians and Jordan.
Osama Al Sharif is a veteran journalist and political commentator based in Amman. The views he expresses are strictly his own.
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