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Israel vs. Jordan
Why Israel needs to be tougher.
By Mordechai Kedar
In 1994, Israel signed a peace agreement with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. In this agreement, Israel granted “special status” (Article 9) to the Jordanian government on the Temple Mount (‘Muslim Holy Shrines in Jerusalem’). This concession to the Jordanians was totally unnecessary since King Hussein needed peace with Israel more than Israel needed it with Jordan, and a peace agreement was achievable without it. Even ignoring this, what normal country grants another country ‘special status’ in its capital city and in the place most holy to its nation. This special status that recognizes a degree of Jordanian sovereignty on the Temple Mount has been disastrous for Israel and the devastating effects of this blunder have played themselves out once again in the wake of the latest terrorist attack on the Temple Mount, where two Israeli border policeman were killed.
The biggest mistake Israel has made with regard to Jordan is the ‘insurance policy’ it has given to the Hashemite Kingdom for the past 23 years under the baseless assumption that Jordan can deliver on its part. This insurance policy is that Israel would protect the Hashemite Kingdom if in danger of being overthrown, and in turn, Jordan would serve as a buffer zone protecting Israel from the potential dangers threatening it from the east: Iraq falling apart, Iran and the Ayatollahs, ISIS and Al-Qaeda. As a result, the Hashemite Kingdom, whose origins are in Saudi Arabia, continues to rely on the minority Bedouin population to rule the majority Palestinian population, which thus prevents the natural process of Jordan becoming a country which is ruled by the Palestinian majority, or Jordan being split into a Palestinian and Bedouin state.
The continued rule of the Hashemite Kingdom in Jordan and the failure to establish a Palestinian state there is the source of the demand to establish a Palestinian State in Israel’s heartland, which would extend over the Judean and Samarian hills, the ancient homeland and birthplace of the Jewish people. This proposed Palestinian state in Israel’s heartland would have the greater part of Israel in its crosshairs, from just south of Tiberias in the North to Be’er Sheva and Dimona in the South, and along the coastal plains from Haifa in the North to Ashkelon in the South. All of these areas would be well within the range of Palestinian missiles, mortar shells, field intelligence and more. In short, Israel would be establishing a Palestinian state – a strategic threat within its borders – so that it can achieve an uncertain tactical achievement outside of it. Is there any absurdity greater than this?
Israel handling of the security measures it instituted on the Temple Mount vis-à-vis Jordan should have been completely different. Instead of surrendering to Jordanian demands and removing all the security measures, Israel needed to tell Jordan in no uncertain terms: “The terrorist attack on July 14th proves that you are not living up to your obligations concerning the Temple Mount, and thus you have violated the article in the peace agreement that grants Jordan a special status on the Temple Mount, which Israel gave to your father in 1994. Furthermore, regarding , you have one hour to return the Israeli embassy security guard, that defended himself in Amman after being stabbed, unharmed to Israel, and until he is returned Israel will withhold transferring the tens of millions of cubic meters of water that it committed to your father in the peace agreement.” It is the type of message that Israel must convey to the King of Jordan, especially in light of his leading the anti-Israel UNESCO resolution regarding Jerusalem. Israel cannot allow a country that has a peace agreement with it to act that way.
But it’s worse than that.
When Israel placed magnometers and security cameras at the Temple Mount entrance about two weeks ago, the King of Jordan, Abdullah, contacted America and European countries and warned that the security measures Israel implemented on the Temple Mount could potentially undermine his government. Since Jordan has a special status regarding Jerusalem, Israel’s actions will spark the rage of Muslims in Jordan and throughout Middle East against his government, because his inaction to influence Israeli policy on the Temple Mount would be seen by the Muslim world as collaborating with Israel. Therefore, in order for Abdullah to maintain his already unstable government, he demanded that the Israeli government remove the security measures it had recently installed on the Temple Mount. This request is unthinkable, and one wonders how Abdullah musters the chutzpah to demand such a request which implies that Israel should endanger its own police and citizens, so that he can remain secure in the monarchy inherited from his great grandfather who received it illegitimately from the British after World War I.
Israel’s conduct vis-à-vis Jordan, illustrates that here also, similar to its dealing with the Palestinians, the Israeli government continues to prefer short term tactical interests over long term strategic interests, such as allowing the Hashemite Kingdom to be toppled and replacing it with a Palestinian Arab state. The Hashemite Kingdom is living on borrowed time, and its fate will likely be similar to other Arab governments throughout the Middle East that were toppled; and these governments were stronger and more stable than the Hashemite Kingdom. The events of the last week prove that the peace agreement with Jordan not only limits Israel’s sovereignty and ability to defend its citizens, but also serves as a vehicle which allows Jordan to apply diplomatic pressure on Israel.
The Hashemite Kingdom in Jordan owes its life to Israel, and therefore the Israeli government need not acquiesce to their demands. Regretfully, it is difficult to expect the Israeli government, which surrenders to terror, to navigate correctly through the uncertain roads of the Middle East. The State of Israel needs to invest many resources to restore its image which has been severely damaged by this sad decision to remove the security measures from the Temple Mount. Maybe the time has come for Israeli citizens to demand a head of state who has the determination and backbone necessary to stand up for the security of its citizens.
Dr. Mordechai Kedar is a lecturer in the Department of Arabic Studies at Bar Ilan University.