AMMAN, Jordan — Jordanians have raised their voice against the Israeli offensive on Gaza that has so far killed over 200 Palestinians and one Israeli, with protesters taking to the streets, members of parliament (MPs) planning to head to the Gaza Strip and King Abdullah II warning of "the dangerous escalation" of violence in the area.
Israel’s week-old Gaza Strip barrage followed an escalation of hostilities that began with the arrest of hundreds of Hamas supporters by Israeli forces in the Israeli-occupied West Bank following the kidnapping of three Jewish teenagers who were later found dead.
A Palestinian youth was then abducted and burned alive in Jerusalem, in an alleged act of retaliation by far-right Israelis.
Jordanians have since then taken to the streets, calling on the government to expel the Israeli ambassador to the kingdom, shut down the embassy, cut all relations to what protesters have defined “the Zionist entity” and revoke the peace treaty with Israel. But actions against Israel seem unlikely.
“Jordan will neither expel the Israeli ambassador nor shut down the embassy,” Jawad Anani, former deputy prime minister and foreign minister, told Al-Monitor. “This demand always arrives whenever there is an Israeli action that angers Jordanians. We cannot do that, as we need to maintain lines of communication with the Israelis despite Jordan’s current very cold relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.”
At a rally led by the Muslim Brotherhood on July 9, protesters attempted to storm the Israeli Embassy, but were prevented from reaching the diplomatic mission by Jordanian forces. Six people were arrested and then released shortly after.
Asked about the reasons behind the protest, Sheikh Hamza Mansour, leader of Jordan's Islamic Action Front, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in the kingdom, told Al-Monitor that Jordanians and Palestinians were one and the same people, therefore, "If you are killing us in Gaza, you are killing us everywhere."
"If this continues, Jordan’s streets, from Aqaba to Ramtha, would stand up to their defense spontaneously without planning or mobilization from anyone," he said.
Following an emergency meeting called by the Palestine Committee in the lower house of parliament last week, 20 Jordanian MPs announced they would head for Gaza in a display of solidarity and support with Palestinians suffering under “Israeli aggression.”
"This is a message to America, Europe, the [UN] Security Council and the international community that Israel’s domination and arrogance is unacceptable and cannot be left without questioning and punishment,“ MP Yihya Saud, head of the Palestine Committee in the Lower House and organizer of the initiative, told Al-Monitor.
Saud stressed the MPs will act independently of the Jordanian government and planned to reach Gaza from the Rafah border crossing between the southern Gaza Strip and Egypt.
But Egyptian authorities denied the Jordanian MPs access to the enclave amid security concerns on July 14, Saud said, adding that Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh was due to discuss the request with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry, though signs for an agreement were “thin.”
Anani, who was first a negotiator in the discussions that led to the Israel-Jordan peace treaty in 1994, said there have been violations to the accord over the past two decades.
"There were infringements on issues regarding treatment of refugees according to the international law and the abolishment of the borders between Jordan and the West Bank as we did not recognize the Israeli legitimacy as occupier in these territories."
The former royal court chief said that tension between Israel and the Palestinians has always had a direct repercussion on Jordan and as long as a peace agreement was not reached, there would be instability in the kingdom and in the region overall.
“Attacking civilians in Gaza and accusing Hamas of the teenagers’ kidnapping, despite Hamas’ denial and lack of evidence, has led to anger. We are still living the Arab Spring and people in the streets are not accepting this violence. This affects the security of everybody in this part of the world and in Jordan especially,” Anani said, downplaying the chance of an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza.
“The Israelis are reluctant to enter Gaza by land with troops as this would lead to casualties among their lines, something that they cannot afford politically right now,” he said.
In a display of support for the Palestinians in Gaza, around 300 protesters filled the square in front of the Kalouti Mosque in west Amman after Friday prayers on July 11 and the Ramadan special evening prayers on July 15, a few blocks from the Israeli Embassy. Al-Monitor attended both rallies.
Riot police were deployed but no incidents were reported during the rallies.
Banners depicting the Nazi swastika next to a Star of David and reading "Jordanian government, shut down the Zionist embassy, kick the ambassador out," and "The road to Palestine is through gun barrels not a Zionist visa" could be spotted at the rally.
Degoul, a 46-year-old Jordanian residing in New York, but currently on a visit to the country, said he joined the protest to support the Palestinians amid the ongoing "massacre."
"What we are seeing is a premeditated murder conducted by the Israeli government on the people of Gaza without any balance between what happened and what Israel is doing. Gaza has no airplanes or tanks," he said.
Student Marwa Daher, 17, who has distant relatives in Palestine, told Al-Monitor the current state of affairs was partly the result of people not raising their voices loud enough for the Palestinian cause.
Similar protests took place in several cities across the country in Karak, Irbid, Tafileh, Mafraq and Jerash, protesters said at the rally.
On July 10, Jordan’s King Abdullah warned against the "dangerous" escalation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, during an official visit to Washington.
Following a meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden, the king said the recent developments hampered the resumption of the Palestinian-Israeli talks based on the two-state solution, and the ensuing "vacuum" would lead to more violence.
Anani said the Israelis were showing no signs of wanting peace.
“The Arab Spring has given the Israelis a green light to keep ignoring the mutual peace and occupying more land. They are encouraging settlers to build new settlements, they are attacking the Holy Shrine in Jerusalem. This is not acceptable. What the Palestinians do in retaliation of violence, the Israelis do continuously on a daily basis,” he said.