Dr. Shehab Al-Makahleh
Almost a year ago, his majesty King Abdullah II had a meeting with a group of British journalists in London during his stopover after his participation in the climate summit in Glasgow. King Abdullah II said that what worries him most is the failure to reach peace in the Middle East region.
When Benjamin Netanyahu won the Israeli elections as prime minister, many Arab countries were concerned that they perceive in the elected premier’s mindset that the clock has turned back to the era of military tension between the Arab countries and Israel.
Years ago, Netanyahu declared: “The time has come to impose Israeli sovereignty on the West Bank, and that everyone who believes in our right to the Land of Israel must support this step and our government to implement it.” In short, those statements are the same today with an extreme right-wing government led by the same person as a prelude to dissolving the Palestinian National Authority, prior to the annulment of the Oslo Accords and the two-state solution proposal advocated by Arab countries, including Jordan and the Palestinian National Authority. Carrying out acts of displacing tens or hundreds of thousands of West Bank citizens to Jordan as part of Netanyahu’s plans to implement the deal of the century and annex the West Bank will exacerbate Jordan’s political and economic crises, and expose the kingdom to an existential threat.
What Arab states fear is that Netanyahu will pave the way for the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in major Palestinian cities to Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon. The question posed by Jordan and the Palestinians is: What can be done to prevent this expected move?
His Majesty King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein’s recent visit to Egypt, Algeria, Italy and the United Arab Emirates stems from Jordan’s sensitivity to the dangers looming in the region as a result of reckless behavior that an extremist Israeli government might take that is conducive to regional extremism, violence and wars.
King Abdullah II is well aware that the Israeli extreme right supports the annexation of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley. In addition, the Jordanians and the Palestinians realize today more than ever that Netanyahu seeks to end the Hashemite guardianship of the Islamic and Christian sanctities and hand them over to Israel to exercise its powers over those holy sites.
The deal of the century that former American President Donald Trump supported along with Netanyahu to transform Jordan into an alternative homeland after annexing the West Bank would be restored again and this will irk not only Jordan but other Arab countries that have normalised ties with Israel as Jordanian interests overlay with those of Arab countries politically and economically.
In short, the removal of the Hashemite guardianship means an Israeli effort to threaten the Jordanian monarchy to put pressure on the kingdom in preparation for implementing Netanyahu’s strategy of abandoning the idea of a two-state solution, a prelude that precedes the transfer. Here, we must recall what King Abdullah II said years ago, in an interview with the German magazine “Der Spiegel,” when His Majesty explicitly warned Israel against annexing the West Bank and the Jordan Valley, saying: “This step will lead to a major clash, and we are studying all possibilities.”
Jordan is fully aware that any attempt by Israel today to deport the Palestinians to Jordan is tantamount to a declaration of war. Therefore, how can Jordan respond to these provocative Israeli policies? Jordan has many options including: ceasing security cooperation and coordination. Israel is aware that if Amman stops security coordination with Tel Aviv, this will endanger Israel’s national security, and even expose flaws in the Israeli and security forces along the 610-kilometer border with Jordan.
The second of these options is the threat to cancel the Wadi Araba agreement and end normalization with Israel. The third is stopping economic cooperation, which is in favor of Israel in terms of trade balance. The fourth is the withdrawal of ambassadors, and the fifth is the suspension of trade agreements, including gas deals. The sixth is cooperation with countries that have historical enmity with Israel.
Although some may see Jordan as currently weak, the picture is otherwise. Jordan has many strengths, and it can play some or all of these cards if needed. The sources of strength stem from the relationship between the Jordanian leadership and its people and the foundations of national unity that can stand like a genie in the face of Israel.
It is true that Jordan suffers from economic difficulties, high prices and unemployment rates, but the national duty, if necessary, will overcome all these challenges. No matter how advanced Israel’s technological capabilities are and how much its intelligence and army are, it will not fight a people gathered around its leadership, who did not bargain, make peace, or accept the temptations offered to it in recent years to abandon the Palestinian cause.
To sum up, Jordan must prepare for serious threats to its national identity, security, and stability. The Jordanian preparations for the next phase should start with enhancing the Jordanian internal front with national unity, removing differences, and rallying both government and people around a national strategy to counter this conspiracy and nip it in the bud. The other important approach should also help form an emergency government that includes Jordanian and Palestinian national political and tribal leaders to thwart such threats.