The Israel-Jordan Peace Is a Strategic Success Not to Be Taken for Granted

June 26, 2019 | Joshua Krasna
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This fall will mark the 25th anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty between Jerusalem and Amman. Since then, there has been extensive military and security cooperation between the two countries, along with major economic benefits to both. Yet numerous joint projects suggested at the time of the treaty’s signing and over the intervening years have for the most part come to naught, and ordinary Jordanians remain deeply suspicious of their western neighbor. Joshua Krasna writes:

The relationship between Jordan and Israel is predominantly a strategic one. . . . For each, the relationship with the other is one of its most important strategic assets. The two states share not only a long mutual border but also a pro-Western orientation and, for decades and despite numerous regional changes, very similar threat perceptions. . . . The PLO and the radical Palestinian organizations were for decades a mutual enemy, and in the past two decades, the two neighbors have both faced [in the West Bank] an unstable political entity between them, and they especially fear the rise of Hamas or other radical Islamist groups to power there. [More generally, Israel and Jordan share a] fear of radicalism, whether of the Nasserist, the Shiite radical, or the jihadist variety.

On the political side, [however], the peace is not popular in Jordan, where the majority views it as “the king’s” rather than their own. Little preparation of public opinion was done before its announcement, which came as a surprise to the Jordanian population and elites. Opposition to the peace treaty serves as a glue of sorts for the opposition’s disparate components, and as a socially and politically acceptable vehicle for criticizing the ruling family. . . .

The “anti-normalization” campaign, led by the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated professional associations, parts of the media, and the parliament, is one of key characteristics of the wider relationship between the two states. It limits the . . . non-leadership and non-security aspects of the relationship, and singles out individuals and organizations that engage with Israel or Israeli entities and individuals for public naming and shaming. The campaign has to a large extent isolated the Israeli embassy from contact with its usual interlocutors in elite, intelligentsia, and business circles. . . .

[Another] problem is that many Israelis, including those in senior military and political positions, seem to take the longstanding relationship for granted, assume Jordan has no other good options, and look at the ties in narrow political and economic terms. However . . . it is difficult to count the savings and benefits from 25 years of peace. . . . There has not been a successful terrorist infiltration of the Israeli border with Jordan since before the peace treaty was signed, and there has not been a cross-border attack since . . . March 1997.

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