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Jordan’s Decision to Attend the Negev Summit Raises Concerns

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Eng. Saleem Al Batayneh

In recent years, the Arab world has been plagued by a recurring problem: the lack of a united front. While leaders like Sultan Abdul Hamid refused to sit at the table, Arab nations have often found themselves running to sit under it. The consequences of this historical pattern, from the Balfour Declaration to the creation of entities and the drawing of maps, continue to shape the region today. Even Trump’s “deal of the century” has added to the complexities.

As Saudi modernist critic Abd al-Rahman al-Muneef noted, our understanding of the past influences how we perceive the present and future. To avoid repeating mistakes, we must delve into history and learn from it. Unfortunately, the current situation in Jordan is dire. The country faces the alarming dangers of power redistribution games, shifting alliances, and the drawing of new maps in the region.

American policies toward the conflict in the Middle East have undergone significant changes, raising concerns about American-Israeli arrangements and understandings that exclude Jordan. This begs the question: Does Jordan still have a relevant role to play in the region? It is increasingly evident that the United States has disregarded Jordan’s interests as a state and a regional actor. Furthermore, Israel’s behaviour, driven by its composition and ideology, has become increasingly uncertain and worrisome, particularly in light of the rise of religious and extremist currents in Israeli politics. Past experiences, notably the Aqaba Conference, have provided ample evidence of this.

The situation in Iraq is also cause for concern, as there is a genuine fear of joint American-Israeli control over Mesopotamia and the Fertile Crescent. Such a development would undermine Jordan’s historical strategy, which relies on its role as a geographic and security barrier between Israel, Iraq, and Syria. Zahava Gal-On, a former member of the Knesset and head of the Meretz party, declared a year ago that Jordan’s role as a barrier had ended, and now it is the U.S. military bases in Jordan that fulfill this role.

Currently, the White House is exerting unprecedented pressure on Jordan to attend the Negev Summit in Morocco. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan are spearheading this effort, presenting proposals that offer additional financial aid to Jordan through channels separate from the usual U.S. aid programs. However, Jordan’s position remains vague, as it grapples with the complexities and uncertainties surrounding this decision. Key questions persist: Are there guarantees to safeguard holy sites?

Can Israel be prevented from dividing Al-Aqsa Mosque or demolishing the Dome of the Rock to build the Temple in its place? Will Israel cease annexing West Bank lands and constructing settlements?

The proposed Negev Summit follows previous conferences held in Aqaba, Sharm el-Sheikh, and the initial Negev Summit. Morocco has proposed changing the forum’s name to disassociate it from an Israeli region, suggesting the new name “Middle East and North Africa Conference for Peace and Development.” This alteration aims to garner the participation of other countries, including Jordan.

Nonetheless, there are no free meals in geopolitics. The upcoming summit will likely differ from its predecessors, and any promises made will likely be vague and unbinding. Israel has repeatedly demonstrated its determination to pursue its projects of annexation, displacement, division, and demolition in the region. The outcome of the forthcoming conference in Morocco remains uncertain. With American support for Israel and the weakened state of Arab parties, the odds are stacked against Jordan. An advisor at the U.S. State Department has informed Jordan that there is no prospect for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians for at least the next decade. Against this backdrop, Jordan finds itself compelled to attend the Negev Summit in Morocco.

It is evident that the dynamics and rules of the game have changed. However, we must be cautious and vigilant, as our hearing can be impaired by mere words, and our vision can be clouded by short-sightedness. The saying “actions speak louder than words” holds true.

How long will Jordan remain passive and allow its future to be dictated by the United States and Israel? In the eyes of others, we have become a disregarded entity and geography without a soul.

Our relationship with Israel seems to be a direct one, where we constantly find ourselves in vulnerable positions. How many times have we compromised our interests for the sake of Israel’s agenda? How many more compromises are in store for us? Isn’t it time for us to take a step back and reassess our actions? It is crucial for us to learn from past mistakes. We have been rapidly moving from one compromise to another, barely absorbing the consequences of the previous one.

The timing of our decisions holds significant importance, as we must be wary of being lured into a quagmire from which escape may prove impossible. Therefore, it is imperative that we employ a critical analysis of the situation and re-evaluate our options. We must strive to score a goal or execute a penalty kick that will put Jordan back on the map of the region, a map from which we have been absent for far too long.

Al Batayneh is a former member of the Jordanian Parliament