Analysis: Fear, weakness drive Jordan’s land-lease decision

With Islamism and other anti-Israel forces on the rise, Jordan’s king abandoned his late father’s more cordial relations with Jerusalem. 

By Daniel Krygier, World Israel News

Jordan’s recent decision to downgrade parts of its peace treaty with Israel likely took Israeli officials in Jerusalem by surprise. Where do Jordanian-Israeli relations stand today and where are they likely heading in the future?

Jordan’s decision to nix its lease of lands to Israel should be seen in the context of wider Middle Eastern developments.

By Middle Eastern standards, Jordan’s relations with the Jewish state were comparatively warm, even before a formal peace treaty was signed in 1994.  Jordan only reluctantly joined the Arab joint attacks on the nascent Jewish state in 1948 and later in 1967.

Jordan fearful

However, Jordan is a fragile and comparatively weak state, surrounded by larger and more powerful Arab and Muslim neighbors. 

Challenged both domestically and regionally, Jordan’s Hashemite royals have always felt vulnerable and threatened. Anti-Israel hatred in the Muslim Arab world has long made Amman careful about displaying excess affinity for the Jewish state, even at the best of times.

But with Islamism and other anti-Israel forces on the rise, Jordanian King Abdullah II abandoned his late father’s more cordial relations with Jerusalem. The king has instead adopted a cooler approach to Israel.

Fearing that Jordan might still be seen as a solution to the so called “Palestine” problem, he has become a vocal critic of Israel and increasingly blames Jerusalem for the failure to implement the two-state solution. Privately, however, Jordan expresses growing frustration with Ramallah’s inflexibility to secure peace with Israel.

Israel’s expiring lease of lands assigned to Jordan offers Abdullah the chance to create more daylight between himself and Israel. He hopes to appease the growing Islamist influence in the region.

However, in practice, Jordan needs Israel more than ever. The Jewish state provides Jordan with crucial water supplies, technologies and business opportunities. Rhetoric aside, Jordanian-Israeli relations are likely to remain strong in the foreseeable future.