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September 14, 2011 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 737

Jordan-Israel Relations Following the Takeover of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo

September 14, 2011 | By H. Varulkar
Jordan | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 737

Introduction

The September 9, 2011 storming of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo inspired the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan to demand the closure of the Israeli Embassy in the capital Amman. A senior Muslim Brotherhood official even warned the Arab rulers against countering the will of the Arab peoples, who oppose ties with Israel.

The Jordanian authorities, which have issued no official statement regarding the Cairo incident, fear the possible occurrence of a similar event in their country, and before the night of September 9 was out, they had already beefed up security measures around the Israeli Embassy in Amman.[1] Indeed, in the past couple of days, Jordanian activists have increased tensions in Jordan by launching preparations for a million-person demonstration demanding the embassy's closure, set to take place in the capital on Thursday, September 15.

At the same time, the Cairo embassy takeover sparked many reactions in the Jordanian press, and the issue of the Arab countries' relations with Israel, especially following the Arab Spring, came up for discussion. The overwhelming majority of these reactions expressed support for the takeover, justified the actions of the Egyptian mob, and placed the responsibility for the incident squarely on Israel. Some even encouraged Egypt to continue ratcheting up the tension with Israel and to rescind the Camp David Accords. Many articles referred to the Arab Spring's impact on the relationship with Israel, stating that in this new reality, it is the Arab peoples, not the Arab rulers, who will set the tone of that relationship, and they will no longer accept peace agreements that are not based on equality and mutual respect.

The Jordanian independent daily Al-Arab Al-Yawm assessed that the events will also impact Jordan's relations with Israel, saying that the Jordan-Israel peace agreement was now at risk. However, it should be noted that, that except for this article, the writers were clearly avoiding specifically referring to the Jordan-Israel peace agreement, and also avoided mentioning the Cairo incident's ramifications for relations between the two countries.

Islamic Action Front: Close the Israeli Embassy in Amman

The Islamic Action Front, which is the party of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, congratulated the Egyptian people on the "fleeing" of the staff of the "Zionist embassy" in Cairo after the embassy was stormed by the youth of the revolution. Murad Al-Adhaila, who holds the Palestinian portfolio in the party's executive office, called on the Jordanian government to move quickly to "sweep out the Zionist spy den in Amman" and added: "It is disgraceful that the Israeli Embassy will remain in Amman in light of the continued Zionist attacks on Jordan's sovereignty and interests." He continued: "The Arab peoples overwhelmingly reject relations with the Zionist entity, and the rulers must not oppose this. The peoples know their path, and will beyond a doubt triumph over the lackey executioners who advocate the culture of submission [to Israel]."

Al-Adhaila called the Cairo embassy takeover "a message of great significance that proves that the resistance is the option of the peoples." He added, "The occupation draws its power from the survival of the tyrannical regimes that are trying to protect it and to prevent the peoples from liberating the land stolen from them and from regaining their expropriated rights." He then warned the Arab rulers against disregarding the will of the Arab peoples, who he said had "chosen the option of reclaiming their lost honor." [2]

Facebook Campaign for Demonstration by Millions, to Demand Closure of Israeli Embassy in Amman

On September 11, 2011, two days after the embassy takeover in Cairo, it was reported in Jordan that anti-normalization activists had launched a Facebook page calling for a million-person demonstration on Thursday, September 15, 2011, to demand the closure of the Israeli Embassy in Amman.[3] A few days later, it transpired that the call had come from the Jama'at Al-Kalouti organization, called "Jak," that has been holding a demonstration in front of the Israeli Embassy in Amman every Thursday, demanding to rescind the peace agreement with Israel and expel its ambassador. To date (September 14), some 3,000 people have registered on the page to confirm their participation, while approximately 18,000 who were invited have not confirmed their participation.

The Jordanian Press: Support for Embassy Takeover

Israel Is to Blame for the Cairo Events – It's Pushing the Region towards Explosion

In an editorial, the Jordanian daily Al-Dustour blamed Israel for the takeover of its embassy in Cairo, and stated that Israel's actions are reminiscent of Nazi actions: "Anyone following Israel's measures and aggressive behavior towards the Palestinian people, and against the states of the region in general, will reach a certain conclusion, and that is that this Zionist entity is pushing the region towards an explosion and to a war that will lead to [more] wars, and none can tell when those will end. The deterioration in its relations with Turkey and the [Zionist] enemy's refusal to apologize for attacking the Turkish ship [Mavi] Marmara on the high seas... confirms what we say, and proves that we are facing state terrorism on a scale that is unmatched, and that reminds us of the deeds of the Nazis and the Fascists during the 1930s and 1940s.

"The Zionist enemy's military attacks against the Egyptian security forces, the assassination of five of their men, and the Netanyahu government's refusal to apologize to the Egyptian government... reveal the intentions of these Zionist gangs, which enjoy breaking international law and the human rights conventions... and want only one thing – to impose their criminal, aggressive, and expansionist programs... This is what triggered the takeover of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, by a raging mob that felt humiliated and disrespected by the enemy government because [this government] refused to apologize for its repeated crimes...

"[Jordan's] King 'Abdallah II predicted [these] events precisely when he warned against a continuation of the status quo and of the settlement [construction by Israel]... and against Israel's use of force alone. The king warned Washington and the European countries that quick action is essential to extinguish the fuse of the terrifying explosion that is on the way. But apparently the train [i.e. the chance to do so] has already gone, and now the enemy is beating the drums of war and disregarding all international laws and documents.

"It is the Zionist enemy's arrogance that pushed the Egyptian people to break into the embassy... and it is to blame for the deterioration in its relations with Turkey and with the countries of the region...

"The enemy is pushing the region towards an explosion, and this obliges the sister countries to take a resolute stand, to rein in this oppressive aggression."[4]

Encouraging Egypt to Ratchet Up Tensions with Israel

As mentioned, most of the articles in the Jordanian press were explicit in their support for the takeover of the embassy, and some even encouraged Egypt to rescind the Camp David Accords and to continue its anti-Israel activity.

Ibrahim 'Abd Al-Majid Al-Qaisi wrote in Al-Dustour: "On the 'Friday of the correction in the path [of the revolution]'... the second separation fence, erected by the governments that arose after the Egyptian revolution to protect the embassy of the criminal enemy in Egypt, was destroyed... The destruction of this fence, by the hammers of the Egyptians, revealed the Arab disgrace called 'peace with the criminal.'

"With these hammers, and in less than one hour, the wonderful Egyptian hand inaugurated a new pyramid – the pyramid of true honor, that will be completed when the Zionist embassy, symbolizing a peace of humiliation and defeat, is destroyed.

"The true [and correct] path is the one whose compass points to Jerusalem... There will be no honor, pride, stability, or continuation for this nation as long as Jerusalem and its holy sites, and its long-suffering people, remain captives of the criminal Zionist gangs. Oh Egyptian djinn, arise and smash the final idol of the Arab slavery...[5]

Al-Dustour columnist Rashid Hassan wrote: "'Correcting the Path' – [the slogan] waved by the free rebels of Egypt and emphasized by them as they broke into the den of spies – will only be carried out by rescinding the agreement of shame with the enemy that [disgraced] Egypt and its status, its role, its national security, the long history of its struggle, the many victims it sacrificed, and the blood of its righteous martyrs that has not yet dried on the soil of Sinai...

"The Egyptian revolution seeks... to restore Egypt to the trench of resistance to the Zionist enemy and all enemies of the nation..., and to support [our] bothers the Palestinian people in their just struggle to liberate the land, obtain the return of the refugees, and oppose the American occupation..."[6]

The Incident Will Impact Jordan-Israel Relations, Peace Agreement

Taher Al-'Adwan, chairman of the board of directors of the independent Jordanian daily Al-Arab Al-Yawm and former Jordanian information minister, assessed that the events in Egypt would also impact Jordan-Israel relations. In an op-ed, he claimed that the fate of Jordan's and Egypt's peace agreements with Israel are at risk: "The Cairo events, and the deterioration of Egypt-Israel relations [following] the recent [events] in the Sinai... will undoubtedly bring these chilling clouds also to the skies of the Jordan-Israel relations. Ultimately, the situation in the Middle East will lead to a discussion of the fate of the peace agreements between Israel and the Arabs and Muslims.

"There is an additional development in Ankara, no less important than what is happening in Cairo... In effect, we are at the beginning of a new phase of the Arab and Islamic attitude towards Israel, one very similar to the Intifada of the Arab street against the absolute tyranny and rule [of the Arab dictators].

"The Arab-Israeli peace process, from Camp David to date, rested on a flawed foundation – i.e. the assumption that a viable and just peace could be established despite the great imbalance of power in the region in Israel's favor, and Israel's vast superiority over all the Arabs. This [flawed] foundation... is to blame for the miserable fate of the Middle East peace process, and perhaps it will cause us to reach a phase in which the peoples demand a reexamination of the Camp David Accords and the Wadi Araba [Jordan-Israel peace] agreement.

"Many historians think that wars break out when the balance of power is upset... Israel, with the support of the U.S., forced humiliating conditions on Egypt and Jordan in [its] peace agreements with them, the first of which was normalization. Another [humiliating condition] is the situation in the Sinai, requiring Cairo to ask permission from Tel Aviv to send even one soldier through the Suez Canal to the Sinai..."[7]

The Arab Spring Created a New Reality in the Relations with Israel

Some of the articles sated that the Arab Spring had given rise to a new reality – one in which the Arab peoples, not the Arab leaders, will determine the attitude towards Israel – and that in this reality, the peoples will no longer consent to relations with Israel that are not based on mutual respect.

Al-Dustour columnist Hilmi Al-Asmar wrote: "The thronging of thousands in Egypt to break into the embassy has extremely important ramifications for every Arab scenario – particularly for all things connected to Israeli-Arab relations.

"Once, prior to the flowering of the Arab Spring, Israel ran amok in the region, attacking, killing, and slaughtering, and the voice of the Arab establishment would utter a word here or issue a declaration there in order to keep the people quiet. The peoples were deeply comatose, and there was no serious response... Israel did what it willed...

"The Arab and decision makers must understand the message that the Egyptian people sent to its government and to all governments on the planet: They [the leaders] can make any decision they want, but they must know that the Arab peoples are not the same peoples that they were before the [Arab] spring, and that what worked then will no longer work – and this does not apply only to relations with Israel!

"The official Egypt refused to expel the [Israeli] ambassador, but the popular Egypt has made the decision and has carried it out – and the ambassador fled in the dead of night..."[8]

In a similar vein, Dr. Hassan Al-Barari wrote in his column in the Jordanian government daily Al-Rai: "This embassy incident reveals that the Arab liberation from the fire of the repression and dictatorship will lead to a different paradigm of relations with Israel.

"Even though Egypt insists on adhering to the international agreements that the previous regime signed with Israel, there is no more excuse for these relations, as long as Israel continues its expansion. The new Arab environment that has emerged as a result of the Arab Spring will no longer allow natural ties with Tel Aviv while it continues to complete the Zionist enterprise and to expand at the Palestinians' expense..."[9]

In an article in the Al-Ghad daily, Jordanian journalist Hani Al-Badri noted that Israel has to understand that now, in the wake of the Arab Spring, there is a new reality: the Arab leaders who once protected it are gone, and now the Arab people are the ones making the decisions:

"Israel must internalize, [today] more than ever, that its old discourse, its old, crooked policy vis-à-vis the Arab issues, and its treatment of the Arab peoples, no longer work, because the rules of the game have changed. Furthermore, after the quality of the masses has changed, and after the Arab leaders, [Israel's] ostensible protectors, have disappeared... Israel must realize that the embassy incident showed that all the protection in the world is not enough [to keep it safe] if its agenda is headed by its insistence on being an enemy...

"The world has changed rapidly, and Israel must understand that a new reality has now been forced upon it – by the popular Arab will that has forcibly entered the equation of Israel-Arab relations.

"From now on, there is no future to relations with Israel unless they are [based on] mutual respect... because the spring of the Arab revolutions has apparently led to the autumn of Israel's exclusive influence [and control] in the region..."[10]

Jordanian Broadcasting Authority Director: Egypt and Jordan Must Not Revoke Peace Agreements Under Pressure from the Street

The only voice opposing the storming of the Cairo embassy and attempting to cool the enthusiasm it generated in Jordan was that of Saleh Qallab, director of Jordan's broadcasting authority and former Jordanian information minister. In his column in the government daily Al-Rai, he wrote that peace agreements cannot be revoked under pressure from the street. He denounced the spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan for saying, in a BBC interview, that Jordan had forced the peace agreement with Israel on the Jordanian public without asking its opinion. Qallab pointed out that the peace agreement had been approved by the Jordanian parliament, which includes representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, and added: "We have said more than once that renouncing this agreement or withdrawing from it cannot be done through protests, shouting and yelling, but [only] through a majority decision in parliament. In order to recruit such a majority, the Muslim Brotherhood must take part in the [next] parliamentary elections. [Then it must] launch a serious political campaign, based on [Jordan's] laws and constitution, and make real efforts to form a parliamentary bloc that can recruit the necessary majority...

"Neither Egypt nor Jordan can renounce an international agreement under pressure of shrill [protests on the] street. A state with [proper] institutions has established procedures for reconsidering such agreements. The chief of these [procedures] is [resolutions by] parliament, which is the representative of the people. Therefore, if the [i.e., the Israel-Jordan peace agreement] – which may have some negative aspects but certainly has thousands of advantages – [this movement] has no choice but to drop its isolationist stance and resume participation in the parliamentary elections...

"Now that [Turkish Prime Minister] Recep Tayyip Erdogan has escalated his country's conflict with Israel, some people are demanding that Egypt revoke the Camp David Accords and return to a state of military confrontation with Israel. These people must find some room for reasonable and logical [thinking] amid this intense and emotional atmosphere, and understand that the situation in Egypt bears no resemblance to the situation in Turkey. Each of these states has its own considerations, especially when it comes to relations with the Israelis. For the Supreme Council of Egypt's Armed Forces, the top consideration [must be]... that the transition from the state of peace, which has lasted over 30 years, to a state of war necessitates military, economic, diplomatic and social preparation that cannot be completed within one or two years..."[11]

*H. Varulkar is a research fellow at MEMRI.

Endnotes:

[1] Eyewitnesses said that two more armored cars and many troops from the General Security Apparatus were deployed in the area of the embassy compound. Albosala.com, September 10, 2011.

[2] Albosala.com, September 10, 2011

[3] Allofjo.net, September 11, 2011, http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=265236993500462&ref=mf

[4] Al-Dustour (Jordan), September 11, 2011.

[5] Al-Dustour (Jordan), September 11, 2011.

[6] Al-Dustour (Jordan), September 11, 2011.

[7] Al-Arab Al-Yawm (Jordan), September 11, 2011.

[8] Al-Dustour (Jordan), September 11, 2011.

[9] Al-Rai (Jordan), September 12, 2011.

[10] Al-Ghad (Jordan), September 12, 2011.

[11] Al-Rai (Jordan), September 11, 2011.

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