The reasons behind the ongoing deterioration of relations between Jordan and Israel are being raised by many observers, particularly given the peace treaty signed back in 1994 and an active security coordination between the two parties. The recent incident where the Jordanian ambassador was prevented from entering the Al Aqsa Mosque is just the latest episode in the complicated relations, although Israelis insist that this particular incident was a result of a lack of pre-coordination. It is telling that the Israeli ambassador was summoned twice by the Jordanian Foreign Ministry in a short amount of time, something which has never happened in the 28 years since the peace treaty was signed.
These are all indicators that relations between Israel and Jordan are not on good terms and suggest that things will only deteriorate if the current path is followed. The lack of communication or agreement over strategic issues is clearly changing the nature of relations between the two countries. While Jordan may not want to deal with an extreme right-wing government in Israel, this is the outcome of the election and Jordan must rethink its approach to dealing with Israel. This is particularly important given the progressive approach that Jordan took to Israel’s previous government under prime minister Yair Lapid and deputy prime minister and Defence Minister Benny Gantz. It seems that the change in government in Israel has returned bilateral relations to the unstable and inactive status that it had previously, which is driving the deterioration.
Regardless of any political or diplomatic misunderstanding, it is important to consider how any Israeli government should perceive relations with Jordan. Perhaps Israel considers there is more value in achieving peace with other Arab countries, a different model of peace, based on popular, economic and sophisticated security considerations. But would this model of peace be seen as an alternative to good relation with Jordan? A country that shares borders and demography as well as close security ties with Israel. Jordan holds many strategic cards in dealing with Israel, but maybe the most important card is the way the value of Jordan is perceived amongst regional and global players, including the Israelis with whom Jordan maintains a peace agreement and security coordination. But can these political disputes or conflicts of interest on certain issues overshadow the strategic value of these shared issues?
These signs of deterioration could be in anticipation of an escalation, especially if this Israeli government pursues its declared plans for annexation of territories and change the situation in Jerusalem. While both parties would likely want to avoid any escalation, given the current state of affairs, it would be a difficult task to rebuild relations. This is particularly so as Israel takes issue with Jordan not being included in the Abraham Accords, as the nature of the new peace model is more satisfying for the Israelis. What remains is the realpolitik that Jordan must clearly highlight its value and the importance of its role for any Israeli government, regardless of changes in the players or ideologies of the time.
Dr. Amer Al Sabaileh