Peace with Israel a let-down for Jordan

Peace with Israel a let-down for Jordan

Yitzhak Rabin and Bill Clinton congratulate King Hussein after his speech at the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty signing ceremony in 1994. (Reuters)

When Jordan signed its peace accord with Israel 25 years ago this month, it was in a different era guided by different leaders. Peace between the Palestinians and Israelis had blossomed the year before, and Jordan was being pushed to act quickly to avoid being left out of the picture. A politically manipulative President Bill Clinton added financial incentives, promising to eliminate Jordan’s debt to the US of nearly $700 million and include Amman in America’s generous foreign aid program. 

Jordan’s King Hussein and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the peace accords on Oct. 26, 1994. Jordan’s debt was erased and US aid grew manifold to nearly $1.5 billionlast year.

Yet, 25 years on, Jordanians are left with a bitter taste, as Israel quickly changed after the peace deal was signed. A disciple of extreme right-wing political figures Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon, who both opposed the 1993 Oslo Accords, assassinated Rabin in Tel Aviv on Nov. 4, 1995. Rabin’s death peeled back the reality that much of Israel’s society and many of its politicians were more interested in annexing Palestinian and Jordanian lands than creating a Palestinian state. 

The assassination and subsequent turmoil allowed Israel’s growing political right to reverse the concessions to Palestinians that Rabin had agreed, while holding both Egypt and Jordan at bay. The feeble Jordan-Israeli peace accord became little more than a process of extracting Amman from the conflict, while the 1979 peace accord with Egypt managed to push Cairo out of the circle too.

I can’t imagine any Jordanians who look at their peace with Israel as anything but a failure that has bound them to an intolerable situation, in which Israel continues to violate Jordanian interests — from vows to annex the Jordan Valley along the Jordan River to the suffocating control of East Jerusalem.

Under normal circumstances, in the shadow of a genuine peace, Israel and Jordan might be celebrating the 25-year-old peace accord. But that’s not happening and relations remain cool.

The situation in Jordan, despite the US foreign aid, remains dismal, as a third of the population livesbelow the poverty line — double what it was a decade ago. 

Israel’s aggressive dominion in the Levant has made it clear that Arabs can expect little from “peace”, and must instead live in subtle subservience as Tel Aviv’s military power continues to grow while Arab armies flounder. Since Rabin’s death, Israel has meticulously dismantled the Oslo Accords, which supposedly served as a foundation for the Jordanian peace deal and was presumably one of the goals of the Egyptian agreement.

In his largely-ignored speech to the 74th UN General Assembly last month, Jordan’s King Abdullah warned of the concerns that continue to grow.  “Forty years ago, my father, His Majesty the late King Hussein, who loved peace, stood in this very chamber and decried the occupation and attempts, in his words, ‘to eradicate from the world’s memory centuries of history and tradition and of spiritual, moral and cultural ideals’,” he said.

King Abdullah reminded the UN that he is the custodian of Jerusalem’s “Islamic and Christian holy sites.” There was no mention of the Jordan-Israel peace accord and the only reference to Israel was in the context of the need for a two-state solution, which Israel’s government openly rejects.

I can’t imagine any Jordanians who look at their peace with Israel as anything but a failure that has bound them to an intolerable situation.

Ray Hanania

Speaking directly of Israel’s violations of the peace accords it has signed with the Palestinians and Jordanians, King Abdullah cautioned: “It is a global moral tragedy that the occupation continues. But no occupation, no displacements, no acts of force, can erase people’s history, hopes or rights, or change the true heritage of shared values among the three monotheistic faiths. And nothing can take away the international rights of the Palestinian people to equality, justice and self-determination.”

King Abdullah decried Israeli incursions in Al-Haram Al Sharif, adding that true peace begins “with respect for the holy sites and rejecting all attempts to alter the legal status of East Jerusalem and the authentic historic character of the holy city, Jerusalem. What lessons do we teach young people when armed personnel enter Al-Haram Al Sharif, even as Muslim worshippers gather to pray?”

Although his speech was one of the shortest delivered at the UN that week — at only nine minutes — the king’s words probably carried the greatest weight and concern for the region’s future. It doesn’t take many words to explain that, so far, peace with Israel has offered far less in reality than what was promised.

  • Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. He can be reached on his personal website at Twitter: @RayHanania
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view