The limits of Jordan’s diplomatic influence over Israel
Jordan’s efforts to convince Israeli leaders to avoid escalations in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank appear to have hit a wall. Since early March, King Abdullah has called on visiting Israeli officials not to provoke Palestinians, including at the Al-Aqsa Mosque and in the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. In recent weeks, he has met in Amman on several occasions with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and, most recently, President Isaac Herzog. On Sunday, he received a call from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
In all these meetings and calls, the King stressed the need to achieve a state of calm during Ramadan, which also coincides with the Jewish Passover celebrations, in order to avoid a repeat of last May’s clash between the Hamas and Israel, in addition to an outbreak of violence in the West Bank. Lapid and Gantz seem to agree, and the latter has talked about making positive gestures toward Palestinians during Ramadan. The king visited Ramallah last week and made similar calls during a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
But things started spiraling out of control when the Palestinians carried out a number of attacks inside Israel that killed a total of 11 Israelis. Two of these attacks have been attributed to Daesh in an intriguing precedent. In retaliation, Israeli security forces made a number of arrests in the West Bank and reportedly shot dead three young Palestinians in cold blood on the outskirts of Jenin.
Early last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on the Palestinians, as well as Israel, to avoid provocations during Ramadan. But while the Israeli security crackdown can be seen in context as a reaction to the series of attacks inside Israel, it is naive to believe that responsibility for the recent escalation can be placed directly on the Palestinians.
A day after Herzog made a historic visit to Amman – the first official trip by an Israeli president since the signing of the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel – far-right Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir violated Al- Haram Al-Sharif under police protection and makes provocative statements. He called the Jordanian Waqf authorities who administer the Muslim site “terrorists” and said that “whoever controls the Temple Mount controls the Land of Israel. The enemy understands this too.
Ben-Gvir is the incendiary racist politician who recently sparked violent clashes in Sheikh Jarrah. He has led numerous incursions into Al-Haram Al-Sharif this year. In fact, Israel has ignored Jordanian denunciations of almost daily incursions by radical Jews.
On the same day Bennett called King Abdullah, his coalition partner Lapid made a defiant visit to Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City accompanied by police, who then clashed with Palestinians. It was the second day of Ramadan in the Occupied Territories and the mood was already on fire. Lapid, a centrist politician, had also visited Amman a month earlier to discuss with the king ways to calm the situation.
Since Bennett formed his coalition government last June, and despite a marked improvement in Jordanian-Israeli relations — in contrast to years of tension under Binyamin Netanyahu — Israeli officials have done little to prevent radical Jewish groups from violating Al-Haram Al-Sharif in clear violation of the standstill agreement between Jordan and Israel and their peace treaty.
Since the signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020, Jordan and, to some extent, Egypt have become the only Arab countries linked to Israel that champion the two-state solution as the only recipe for a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Israeli conflict. Palestinians, and who are trying to put pressure on Israel to stop its unilateral actions in the occupied territories.
But it is Jordanian diplomacy that bears the brunt of advocacy for the Palestinian cause in global arenas, and for good reason too. Jordan’s ties to the West Bank and Jerusalem are unique. It is in Jordan’s best national security interests that a two-state solution be put in place. This solution must solve the question of the Palestinian refugees, put an end to the myth “Jordan is Palestine” propagated by the Israeli far right, which wants to annex the West Bank and push the Palestinians back to Jordan, and protect the Hashemite role of guardian of Jerusalem. holy places.
But the Palestinians’ growing anger and frustration are not without reason. Since the Bennett government was sworn in, the number of mob attacks by radical Jewish settlers against Palestinians has increased exponentially, resulting in injuries and even deaths, not to mention the burning of cars and homes. and the uprooting of hundreds of trees. The situation has been simmering for months and it is no surprise that violence has finally broken out.
Israeli officials have done little to prevent radical Jewish groups from violating Al-Haram Al-Sharif.
The reality is that the assurances given by Israeli officials to Jordan are mostly meaningless and false. Israeli coalition governments have many heads, and even if one official gives his word, another will soon break it. In Lapid’s case, he couldn’t wait to break his own word in Amman. Provoking the Palestinians is a sure way to make cheap gains in the opinion polls in a country that is veering dangerously to the far right, as Lapid eyes his turn as prime minister next year. In such a context, the fact is that Jordanian diplomacy has limits when it comes to exerting leverage over Israel and, amid American indifference to the conflict, Amman finds itself in an isolated place. .
- Osama Al-Sharif is an Amman-based journalist and political commentator. Twitter: @platon010
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