Jordan Does Not Benefit from Creating Tension with Israel

December 12, 2022 | Jonathan Schanzer
About the author: Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the United States Department of the Treasury, is senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He is author of the new book Gaza Conflict 2021: Hamas, Israel and Eleven Days of War (FDD Press). Follow him on Twitter @JSchanzer.

More than two decades before the signing of the Abraham Accords, Amman made peace with Jerusalem. Their cooperative relationship goes back at least to the early 1970s, when Israel intervened to stop a Syrian attempt to overthrow the kingdom and the king of Jordan tried to warn Israel of the impending Yom Kippur War. Yet, Jonathan Schanzer observes, while economic relations and behind-the-scenes security coordination continue, Jordan increasingly sends hostile public messages to its neighbor, and the past decade has been punctuated with crises.

To be sure, Jordan should not be counted among the Iranian axis that actively calls for Israel’s destruction (Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon). However, Jordan today does not fit within the bloc of pragmatic states, such as the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, and even Saudi Arabia. Instead, it appears to have found its place among the nonaligned states of the Arab world (for example, Algeria and Kuwait). These are states that advocate stridently for the Palestinian cause and reject normalization. But there is one difference between Jordan and the other states that fit this description: the others do not urgently require sustained assistance from America, Israel, or the Gulf states. This should give the Hashemite kingdom pause.

Historically, political, and diplomatic independence has not been a deleterious thing for Jordan. This fierce sense of independence has steered the kingdom away from toxic nationalist, religious, and ideological trends, such as Islamism and Nasserism. However, in this case, it is difficult to discern what Jordan gains, apart from appeasing some of its own subjects at the expense of greater regional instability and increased prosperity.

The status quo, one in which Jordan enjoys the perks of peace while simultaneously excoriating Israel for real and imagined transgressions, does not portend stability in the region. Nor does it bode well for Jordan, given its dependence upon Israel or the other countries that have committed to a fundamental transformation of the Middle East. The Hashemite kingdom must conduct a strategic review of its peace with Israel, with an eye toward openly acknowledging and further strengthening the security and trade ties that are indispensable for Jordan. Such a review should also assess the potential dangers of allowing ties with Israel to deteriorate, particularly as Jerusalem loses patience with such scathing public rhetoric. Jordan should also conduct a review of the benefits of joining Abraham Accords structures, with the goal of pursuing stability, security, and prosperity.

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