Jordanians have been vocally critical of their country’s participation in the US-sponsored conference on Middle East security and peace in the Polish capital Feb. 14. On social media, politically active Jordanians rejected the conference’s stated objective of creating an anti-Iran alliance between Arab countries and Israel. They also objected to seeing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sitting in the same room with Arab foreign ministers, describing the event as a cost-free normalization of ties between Arab countries and Israel.
Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi represented Jordan at the two-day event. He was quoted by the Jordan Times as saying Feb. 13, “Jordan is participating in Warsaw’s ministerial meeting to reiterate its unfaltering stance that there will be no comprehensive peace without realizing Palestinians’ legitimate rights to freedom and statehood along the June 4, 1967, lines with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
On Jan. 31, Safadi hosted a one-day meeting at the Dead Sea with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the UAE and Kuwait, reportedly to hold consultations on a number of regional issues. It is believed that participation in the Warsaw conference was one of the subjects discussed.
Jordan does not share the belief of the United States and most Gulf countries that Iran is the number-one cause of regional instability. King Abdullah has consistently underlined that resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with a two-state solution is the gateway to regional stability and peace. While criticizing Iran’s meddling in Arab affairs, Jordan has been careful not to be seen as part of an anti-Tehran alliance.
Notably, the Palestinians had declined an invitation to attend the conference and called on Arab countries to boycott the meeting. Palestinian officials described the meeting as a conspiracy to undermine their cause.
Local pundits believe that Jordan had no choice but to attend the Warsaw conference. The United States is Amman’s biggest financial and military backer, providing more than $1.5 billion in aid in 2018.
But since Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, Jordan has been forced to adopt positions that were either critical of the US administration or directly opposed to its actions, such as Trump’s 2017 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his move in 2018 to cut funding for the UN agency responsible for Palestinian refugees.
Jordan has also been silent on US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s call last January for the creation of a regional military alliance including Israel to confront Iran.
While Jordanian commentators believe that the Warsaw conference was a failure — there was no official agreement on any particular issue — most agreed that it marked the first step in marketing Trump’s much touted Middle East peace plan. Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner attended the Warsaw conference and announced that the plan, now completed, will be unveiled following the Israeli elections next April. He will tour the Gulf countries later this month to reveal the economic components of the plan, according to press reports.
By and large Jordanians are skeptical of Trump’s peace plan and see it as fulfilling a far-right Israeli agenda that rejects Palestinian statehood, ignores the right of return and legitimizes Israeli occupation of the West Bank. For Jordan, any solution that denies Palestinians the right to have their own state on their national soil also represents an existential threat to itself. Chief among Jordan’s concerns is the fate of over two million Palestinian registered refugees living in the kingdom.
Most observers here believe that US-Jordanian ties may come under stress following the unveiling of Trump’s peace plan. How an unpredictable Trump may respond to Amman’s reserved reaction to the plan is raising concern among Jordanian officials.
Writing for Ad-Dustour Feb. 12, political commentator Orieb Al-Rintawi said that while Jordan attended the Warsaw meeting because it has a peace treaty with Israel, its growing financial and military dependence on the United States “is limiting its margin of diplomatic maneuver.” He added that while Jordan disagrees with Washington that Iran is the top threat in the region, it is finding it increasingly difficult to make the case that failing to resolve the Palestinian issue is a major cause for regional instability.
Political columnist Bassem Al-Tuweisi noted that the only winner at the Warsaw conference was Israel. Writing for Al Ghad Feb. 16, he said that the main outcome appears to be “to redefine the enemy in the region and reshape regional strategic evaluations in Israel’s favor and award it with free normalization gestures.” He added, “The big question now is will the United States succeed in forming an Arab NATO that includes Israel to confront Iran?”
The coming months, which will witness intensive US efforts to bring Israel and the Arab states closer as well as announcing Trump’s peace plan, will test Jordan’s official ties with Washington like never before. We can also expect increased domestic pressure on the government to reject an anti-Iran coalition as well as US pressure to accept the proposed peace plan.
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