Bringing Jordan into the Arab-Israeli Normalization Process

January 12, 2021 | Ben Fishman
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In 1973, the Jordanian monarchy made an important step toward peace when it decided to sit out yet another Egyptian-Syrian attack on the Jewish state, and instead tried to warn it of the coming war. While Amman and Jerusalem formally made peace in 1996, and the two countries have common interests and cooperate closely when it comes to security, the Jordanian press and public remain hostile to Jews and Israel and commerce is limited. Ben Fishman argues that the move toward better relations between Israel and the Arab world can be an opportunity to improve this situation, along with Jordan’s flailing economy:

First, any conversation about a future Saudi-Israeli deal should include a significant support package to Jordan—a mixture of job guarantees, investments, debt relief, and direct budget support. To alleviate past concerns about Jordan’s use of budget support, Saudi or Emirati contributions could be included in a U.S. or internationally monitored investment program. . . . Such an effort would also recognize Jordan’s unique status in the Israel-Palestinian arena given its significant Palestinian-origin population and special caretaker role in Jerusalem.

Second, Joe Biden’s team should make an early effort to strengthen Israel-Jordanian ties, which have frayed politically—and as a result, economically. The relationship cannot be limited to close, but mostly secret, security relations. Even in yet another Israeli election season, the United States can push stalled joint economic initiatives, such as the long-dormant Red Sea-Dead Sea desalinization and water-reclamation project. In Jordan, its gas deal with Israel remains unpopular (despite significantly lowering Jordan’s energy bill). . . . The more tangible investment Jordan sees and the stronger the actual economic partnerships become, the more opposition to deals with Israel will fade to a noisy but limited extreme.

If Saudi Arabia is really waiting to begin the process of normalizing relations with Israel until president-elect Biden takes office as part of an effort to improve its tarnished status in Washington, especially among Democrats, the Biden team and Congress should push both Saudi Arabia and Israel to factor in Jordan as part of a prospective deal. Otherwise, both parties risk ignoring an ailing strategic partner that has been taken for granted by all sides for too long.

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