Jordan is extremely concerned over Israel’s plan to annex the Jordan Valley and West Bank (WB) settlements, hence extending its sovereignty to them. It considers it a serious threat to Jordan’s stability as an entity, system and identity. The King of Jordan has indicated that all options were open in response to the Israeli move, which, if implemented, would lead to a massive conflict.
Accepting the plan is out of the question, and its implementation has dangerous consequences, i.e., it would pave the way for the implementation of the Deal of the Century, including the projects of resettlement, alternative homeland, and forced displacement. Therefore, facing the plan and disrupting its implementation become the most realistic option. It is in line with the declared Jordanian position, which achieves Jordan’s higher interests. This option makes it necessary to adopt a new approach concerning the conflict with Israel, review the bilateral relations and agreements, and closely coordinate with the Palestinian side in order to face the annexation plan and the Deal of the Century.
Jordan has strongly reacted to Israel’s plan to annex parts of WB, namely the Jordan Valley and the settlements, and extend its sovereignty to them. It has clearly expressed its concerns over the dangerous repercussions of the plan on Jordanian national interests.
The statements of King ‘Abdullah II, warning against Israel’s proceeding with the annexation plan, included stronger rhetoric than those in previous declarations vis-à-vis Israeli measures. They reflected the tension ruling the Jordanian-Israeli relations for the past couple of years. About the possibility of Jordan to suspend the peace treaty with Israel should the latter went forward with its annexation plan, King ‘Abdullah II, in an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel in May 2020, said, “I don’t want to make threats and create a loggerheads atmosphere, but we are considering all options,” adding, “If Israel really annexes the West Bank in July, it would lead to a massive conflict with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.”
The King’s strong statements were widely supported by Jordanians, who have consistently expressed their rejection of the agreements and treaties with Israel. For since its signature, the calls to annul the 1994 peace treaty have been the foremost popular political demand. Despite the tight measures in Jordan facing the coronavirus pandemic, popular marches and sit-ins were organized to reject the annexation plan and support the official position against it.
The congruence between the official and popular position was not limited to the strong opposition to the annexation plan. For the two sides had a unified position against the Deal of the Century, the US decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem and the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The current most important question is: what are Jordan’s options if Israel proceeds with its annexation plan, whether in one go or gradually? This is discussed in this strategic assessment, which examines the Jordanian options and their consequent repercussions.
First: Jordanian Concerns Over the Annexation Plan
The official and popular Jordanian stance rejecting the annexation plan consider this move an effective and direct threat to Jordan just as to the Palestinian people and to the future of the Palestine issue. According to Marwan Muasher, the former Jordanian foreign minister and the first Jordanian ambassador to Israel, “the Jordanian concern about the Deal of the Century and the annexation plan is a real, logical and realistic concern rather than verbal anxiety intended as a disclaimer.”
Jordan, which considers the annexation plan as a first step toward implementing the Deal of the Century, has many concerns over the possible repercussions on Jordan, most importantly:
1. The annexation plan contradicts the official Jordanian vision of the conflict resolution and settlement of the Palestine issue based on the two-state solution and the Arab Peace Initiative. The Jordanians consider the annexation plan would end the negotiations and prevent the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state. It would resolve the final status issues strictly according to Israeli interests and rules, thus leading to serious political repercussions on Jordan and the Palestine issue.
2. The annexation plan would lead to the resettlement of Palestinian refugees in Jordan and the implementation of the alternative homeland project. Jordan deems such move an existential threat to the Jordanian entity, identity and political system, and a prelude to a new Palestinian transfer from the WB toward Jordan that might be implemented in any moment.
3. The annexation plan ends any geographical contiguity between Jordan and WB. It prepares for the end of the Jordanian role toward the Palestine issue whether politically, being a major player in the Palestine issue, or religiously regarding the custodianship of the holy sites in Jerusalem.
Second: Jordan’s Options on Dealing With the Annexation Plan
The official Jordanian position rejects the annexation plan due to many considerations. Accordingly, it has two main options, where each has its motives, entitlements and repercussions:
• First Option: Adapting to the annexation plan, living with its ramifications and evading the burdens of facing it
If Jordan adopts this option, it will only announce its official rejection of the annexation plan and warn of its dangers, yet without practical measures to impede it.
The most important factors that would lead to this option are:
1. The Trump administration supports the annexation plan, hence it would pressure Jordan to accept it.
2. The weakness of the popular Jordanian, Palestinian, Arab and Muslim support of the Jordanian official position rejecting the annexation plan.
3. The increasing economic complications encountered by Jordan, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, the decline in Arab aid due to lower oil prices and conflicting political positions, besides the decreasing remittances from Jordanian expatriates in the Gulf countries, as many of them have lost their jobs and returned to Jordan joining the unemployed. Jordan fears that taking strong positions against the annexation plan may decrease the $1.3 billion annual US aid.
4. The decline in the Palestinian position rejecting the annexation plan, being limited to press releases without practical political and field measures. Such position would undermine the stance of Jordan and leave it alone in its political confrontation.
5. Arab countries’ reluctance to support the Jordanian and Palestinian rejection of the annexation plan in addition to the continued Arab normalization with Israel.
6. The absence of international support to the Jordanian and Palestinian position rejecting the plan, especially on the European level, in addition to the international parties’ low-profile opposition to the annexation plan.
If Jordan embraces this option in an attempt to avoid political pressures and economic sanctions, many consequences are likely to crystallize, most importantly encouraging Israel to move forward with the annexation plan with minimum Arab opposition, and the full implementation of the Deal of the Century, where one of its important obstacles has been removed.
It is also likely that this option would jeopardize the higher Jordanian interests and pave the way for the projects of resettlement, the alternative homeland and transfer. The Jordanians consider these an existential threat to Jordan’s future, with negative impact on the cohesion of the internal front and on the trust between the official and popular positions.
On the Palestinian level, this option would undermine the Palestinian political stance, leaving the Palestinians alone in their confrontation with the annexation plan, while being exposed to severe political pressure regionally and internationally. On the Arab level, the Jordanian option is likely to negatively affect Arab and Islamic positions regarding the annexation plan and the Deal of the Century. It would encourage some Arab parties to proceed with normalization with Israel. Also, this option would weaken the international position rejecting the annexation plan.
• Second Option: Facing the annexation plan and seeking to thwart it
This option includes reviewing the relations with Israel, adopting a new policy in dealing with the Israeli conflict, and taking measures commensurate with this policy, including:
1. Reconsidering Jordan’s commitment to the 1994 peace treaty with Israel and analyzing its political, security, and economic entitlements, with measures ranging from suspending some of the treaty’s provisions to freezing or canceling it.
2. Reconsidering the gas agreement with Israel and responding to popular demands asking for its termination.
3. Reconsidering the continuation of diplomatic relations between the two sides, starting with recalling the Jordanian ambassador from Israel to severing diplomatic ties and closing the Israeli Embassy in Amman.
4. Communicating with international bodies, in coordination with the Palestinian and Arab sides, to punish Israel for its violations of international law.
Among the most important factors which would encourage Jordan to adopt this option of high-level confrontation:
1. Jordan’s awareness of the serious repercussions of Israel’s annexation plan on Jordanian higher interests, and that the costs of its obstruction are much less than the dangerous impact of its implementation.
2. Confusion and differences in views within the US decision-making institutions regarding the support of the plan’s implementation, for there are many obstacles hindering it.
3. The Jordanian street’s strong stance facing the annexation plan, and the formation of a public opinion pressing for strong positions against the Israeli threats.
4. The Palestinian side has opted to strongly confront the annexation plan, while expressing its willingness to join efforts with Jordan in this confrontation.
5. Enhanced Arab and Islamic position in rejecting the annexation plan, while providing political cover and an economic safety net for the Jordanian side to counter potential economic pressures.
6. The strong positions of international parties, especially at the European level, against the annexation plan, while providing international cover for the Jordanian position rejecting the plan.
Jordan’s choice to confront the annexation plan would constitute an important obstacle to its implementation, especially if it was well coordinated with the Palestinian side, and strongly supported on the Arab and international level. This is likely would be an important step to block the entire Deal of the Century.
Moreover, this option would strengthen the Jordanian internal front and increase its cohesion, while providing strong support for the Palestinian position rejecting the plan and enhancing Arab and international positions opposing it.
The Suggested Option
Based on the above, the confrontation option might impose economic burdens on Jordan. However, the adaptation option entails existential threats to the future of the Jordanian state, which makes it necessary to prioritize strategic over immediate and tactical interests.
If the confrontation option is adopted, it would have a positive impact on the Jordanian internal level and would affect the Palestinian and Arab position, as well as the Israeli, US and international behaviors. Such ramifications encourage the confrontation option.
There are many factors encouraging Jordan to embrace this option. For the Jordanian street is eager to confront the plan, and supports any strong official position against it. Moreover, the Palestinian side maintains a strong position against it, while showing willingness to coordinate with Jordan to face it. In addition, the official decisions of the League of Arab States provide reasonable Arab cover for the Jordanian and Palestinian positions rejecting the annexation plan.
The position of the US administration regarding the form and timing of the implementation appears to be currently confused, in light of the US internal disparities and strong expected responses against the plan. The European position has evolved recently in expressing its rejection of the plan, and some EU countries are actually discussing the option of imposing sanctions on Israel should it effectively implement the annexation.
It is believed that Jordan’s strong rejection, along with the Palestinian position were pivotal in postponing the implementation date, which was scheduled for early July 2020.
It is necessary to recall that Jordan’s position strongly influences the Israeli behavior, and is taken it into consideration by the US and European countries. In several important milestones, Jordan adopted strong positions towards political measures and decisions threatening its national interests. It has strongly rejected the decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the latter as the capital of Israel. Notably, such positions did not decrease the US aid to Amman as some in Jordan have warned back then. On the contrary, the US administration decided to increase that aid.
Based on the above, and based on the realization that Jordan and the Palestinian side possess important strong cards against the annexation plan and the Deal of the Century, it becomes logical to recommend that Jordan confronts the annexation plan, which would be at the same time a prelude to thwarting the Deal of the Century. For this would help Jordan defend and protect its national interests, as well as, it would be part of Jordan’s national and Islamic responsibilities towards Palestine and the Palestine issue.
In line with this vision, it is necessary to provide the following recommendations:
1. Reconsidering Jordanian relations and agreements with Israel, which, when dealing with the Deal of the Century and the annexation plan, has shown a clear disregard of Jordanian national interests and a deliberate violation of the agreements and treaties concluded with Amman.
2. The need to enhance coordination between Jordan and the Palestinian side, at the highest possible level, to confront the annexation plan and the Deal of the Century, while complementing each other’s role to achieve their common interests.
3. Jordan needs to be open to all parties of the Palestinian political landscape, and seriously encourage the Palestinian parties to overcome the schism and join efforts in facing the annexation plan. For Jordan maintains good relations with the various Palestinian parties.
4. Preserving the unity of the internal scene and the harmony of the official and popular Jordanian positions, while strengthening the internal front in its position against the annexation plan, the Deal of the Century and the projects of resettlement and the alternative homeland, i.e., the plans that would target Jordan as an entity, people, identity, and regime.
5. Jordan needs to undertake all possible efforts to strengthen the official Arab front facing the annexation plans.
6. Jordan needs to seek effective communication with all international powers to demonstrate the risks of annexation and urge them to take strict measures against Israel.
* Al-Zaytouna Centre thanks Mr. ‘Atef al-Joulani for authoring the original text upon which this strategic assessment was based.