Should Jordan’s King Abdullah have veto power over Israel’s plan to apply its sovereign laws to its cities, towns and villages in Judea and Samaria and to the Jordan Valley, in accordance with the Trump peace plan? Monday morning, senior leaders of Israel’s Blue and White Party began making noises to that effect.
In an interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel last Friday, King Abdullah threatened, “If Israel really annexes the West Bank in July, it would lead to a massive conflict with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.”
News updates Monday morning reported that “senior officials” from Blue and White were working to condition Israel’s implementation of the sovereignty plan on securing prior approval from Jordan.
Later Monday morning, during the ceremony at the Foreign Ministry marking the arrival of incoming Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, Ashkenazi said that Israel will implement the Trump peace plan “in dialogue with our neighbors, [and while] preserving of the peace treaties and the State of Israel’s strategic interests.”
Taken together with the morning news updates, Ashkenazi’s remarks raised the prospect that he and his partner, Defense Minister and vice prime minister Benny Gantz see Abdullah’s threat as a justification for abandoning their support for the sovereignty plan. It bears recalling that during the negotiations leading up to the formation of the unity government between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud and Gantz and Blue and White, Netanyahu made Blue and White’s support for the sovereignty plan his only substantive condition for signing the deal.
Abdullah, of course, will never approve the sovereignty plan, so giving him a veto means shelving the plan. This raises the question of whether there is any reason to give the head of the Hashemite clan that sort of power. Can he cause Israel harm so grave that it should abandon the sovereignty plan to appease him?
The Der Spiegel reporters asked Abdullah if he would suspend Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel in retaliation for an Israeli decision to apply its sovereignty to the areas.
He responded, “I don’t want to make threats and create a loggerheads atmosphere, but we are considering all options.”
In plain English, that means that he is absolutely not considering suspending the peace deal. He’s bloviating. And he has good reason to both keep the peace deal and to bloviate.
Abdullah will not cancel his kingdom’s peace deal with Israel because the treaty guarantees the survival of his regime. Israel provides Jordan with an economic lifeline by supplying it with water and gas. The United States, for its part, protects and sustains Abdullah and his kingdom by stationing U.S. forces in the kingdom and by providing Jordan with $1.8 billion in economic assistance annually.
If Jordan abrogated the peace deal, Israeli water and gas transfers would obviously cease. And since Israel’s sovereignty plan will be undertaken in the framework of the U.S. peace plan, it is hard to imagine that U.S. support for the kingdom would be unchanged in the event that Jordan abrogated its peace deal in retaliation for Israel’s move.
All this is not to say that Israel’s relations with Jordan are stable. Anti-Semitism is almost universal in Jordan, and support for the peace with Israel is non-existent. The Hashemite monarchy itself is deeply unpopular.
It is possible that one day, with his back to the wall, Abdullah will abrogate the treaty. It is equally possible that one day he will be overthrown and that the successor regime will abrogate the peace treaty with Israel.
Facing this state of affairs, Israel’s proper response is not to set aside the sovereignty plan, which among other things secures Israel’s long border with Jordan by applying Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley. The proper response to Jordan’s enormous hostility—a state of affairs that existed long before the sovereignty plan and the Trump plan were conceived—is to draw up detailed contingency plans for the day after the Hashemites are overthrown or the peace treaty is abrogated.
In his remarks at the Foreign Ministry, Ashkenazi rightly praised U.S.-Israel relations. “The United States is Israel’s closest ally and the State of Israel’s most important friend,” he said.
During his visit with President Donald Trump in the White House in January, according to a senior American official, Gantz committed himself to implementing the Trump peace plan, including the sovereignty plan.
To preserve U.S.-Israel relations, Ashkenazi and Gantz need to uphold that commitment. Failure to do so is liable to undermine Israel’s credibility as a stable ally among administration leaders and other friends of Israel in Washington.
Ashkenazi acknowledged that through his peace plan, President Trump “presents us with a historic opportunity to shape Israel’s future and its borders.”
Israel mustn’t permit King Abdullah and his empty threats to stand in its way to seizing that opportunity now.
Reprinted with author’s permission from Jewish News Syndicate