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memri
December 27, 2017 No.
7251

Senior Jordanian Columnists Warn Against Cancelling Peace Treaty With Israel

U.S. President Donald Trump's December 6, 2017, announcement of U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and his plan to move the American embassy there ignited a vast wave of protests against the U.S. and Israel across Jordan. These demonstrations included calls to cancel the agreements signed by Jordan and Israel, including the peace treaty.[1]

Loud calls to revoke the peace agreement with Israel and to cease normalization with it were also voiced in the Jordanian parliament. In its session on December 10, 2017, which was dedicated to Trump's announcement, the parliament empowered its legal committee to reexamine the agreements with Israel, including the peace treaty, and to document all of Israel's legal violations and present them to parliament so that a decision may be taken on this issue. On the following day (December 11), the committee met with Justice Minister 'Awad Abu Jarad to request all the material on the signed agreements with Israel,[2] and one day later it reconvened to discuss the matter.[3]

At the same time, 14 MPs submitted to the government a memorandum calling to "promote legislation to cancel the Jordan-Israel peace agreement due to Israeli violations of it" and due to the American announcement about Jerusalem.[4] On December 17, several MPs signed another memorandum calling on the government to terminate the leasing to Israel of the Al-Bagoura and Ghamar areas on the Jordan-Israel border, claiming that it is an infringement of Jordanian sovereignty and the rights of its citizens in those areas.[5] 

Calls to revoke all agreements with Israel were also posted on social media, under existing hashtags such as "#Wadi Araba [peace agreements] will be cancelled" and "#boycott the Zionists," which were brought back into use, and under a new hashtag, "#Cancel it," which went viral within hours.[6] One Jordanian tweeted: "Jordanian members of parliament and decision-makers! Cancel the Araba [peace] Agreement, cancel the gas [import] agreement [with Israel], and sever all overt and covert relations [with it]. Out! Out, the Zionist embassy."


The Jordanian user's tweet (Source: MirvatOmar3, December 11, 2017)

In response to the steps taken by parliament toward canceling the peace agreement with Israel and the popular support for these steps, three senior Jordanian columnists published articles cautioning Jordan not to rush into such a decision. They argued that Jordan had benefited from the peace agreement, that the calls to cancel it stemmed from populist motives, and that cancelling it would play into the hands of the Israeli government, while adhering to it would demonstrate the Arab inclination toward peace. Accordingly, they advised Jordan to carefully consider the implications of cancelling the agreement.

The following are translated excerpts from their articles:

Senior Al-Rai Columnist: The Calls To Cancel The Peace Agreement Stem From Populist Motives

Fahd Al-Fanek, a columnist with the Al-Rai establishment daily and the former chairman of its board of directors, presented the advantages of the peace agreement for Jordan and described the calls to revoke it as "populist." He wrote: "Some of our esteemed MPs were overcome with excessive enthusiasm which caused them to demand a reexamination of the peace agreement with Israel, but did not say what the next step should be. The revocation of a peace agreement is usually preceded by a declaration of war.  Is it their intention that Jordan embark on that kind of adventure[?]

"As a result of the [peace] agreement [with Israel], Jordan regained territory held by Israel and some of the water that had previously been allocated to the [Israeli] Negev. In addition, it received international recognition of [its] borders. And what did Israel achieve in return [for the agreement] other than security on its eastern border, which was [already] secure? As for the official results of normalization, they amount to no more than negligible trade exchanges, most of which are with [Israeli] Arab importers and exporters who deserve support. Jordan undertook this agreement following [the example of] Egypt, the largest and leading Arab state. Most of the Arab countries bordering Israel or close to it wish to attain similar agreements [as well]. Jordan is generally above board about its dealings with Israel, while larger Arab countries hold secret contacts [with it] and strive to achieve an unspoken alliance with it against a common enemy [Iran].

"This is not the first time that MPs have demanded a reexamination of the agreement with the purpose of cancelling it, and each time it amounted to no more than a storm in a teacup, because there are those who see [this bid] as a means to achieve popularity and embarrass the government.

"The role that Jordan fulfils in supporting the Palestinian people is clear, recognized, and is almost above and beyond [the call of duty]. Not to mention that Jordan has fulfilled its role as custodian of the places holy to Islam and Christianity [in Jerusalem], with all the economic and security implications involved. Would this have been possible, from a practical standpoint, if it were not for the [peace] agreement?

"For the first time, it is in the hands of the Arabs to choose the correct path, which the world understands and accepts, so as to successfully isolate the U.S. and achieve international condemnation of its foolish decision. This is no small thing, and this is the first time that it is occurring on this comprehensive scale, and so we must not destroy this effort by disseminating extremist slogans empty of content. [And in conclusion,] a question: If the agreement is revoked and the current international border [between Jordan and Israel] becomes [nothing more than] the ceasefire line, who will bear responsibility for the results?[7]

Former Information Minister: Revoking The Peace Treaty Will Play Into Israel's Hands

In an article in the establishment daily Al-Rai, former information minister Saleh Al-Qallab called on Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinians to uphold the peace agreements so as not to play into Israel's hands and lose international support for the Arabs in the matter of Trump's announcement. He wrote: "With all due respect for the Jordanian MPs who went around waving the idea of cancelling the Wadi 'Araba [peace] agreement, [let me say that,] just like in the case of the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel, everyone is surely aware that Israel is waiting with bated breath for us to take some measure [of this sort] or even to hint at taking it. This is because the pressure campaign they are currently facing is an international and global one, for [the world] is taking the side of us Arabs, Palestinians, Muslims, and Christians. The mere hint of a suggestion to revoke these agreements will provide [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu with the ammunition he needs in order to claim that 'these Arabs and Palestinians, and their supporters, do not really want peace,' and that the [appropriate] response is to adopt and support the decision of the U.S. President that recognizes united Jerusalem as Israel's eternal capital.

"We, especially Jordan and Egypt, must therefore uphold our peace treaties with Israel at this historic moment, [so as to] sustain the broad international censure of Trump and Netanyahu and strengthen the commitment of [Palestinian Authority] President Mahmoud 'Abbas and of our Palestinian brethren to the Oslo Accords and all [their other] agreements. Because, in the eyes of the world, which is now standing united for truth and against falsehood, these agreements are decisive proof that we want peace, whereas the Israelis, and with them the 'Talmudic' American administration, want [only] more wars in the Middle East, which is exhausted by wars, past and future."[8]        

Senior Al-Ghad Columnist: We Must Tread Wisely And With Awareness Of Our Situation

Fahad Al-Khitan, a senior columnist with the Al-Ghad daily, called on the Jordanian parliament to behave wisely, while taking into account Jordan's complex political situation. He wrote: "The value and legitimacy of any report published by the [parliamentary legal] committee lies not in the political sphere but in the legal monitoring of Israeli violations... In its report the committee can submit practical recommendations to cancel or alter existing agreements; request that the government file concrete claims against Israel for known legal violations, and approach international tribunals, if this proves necessary, to register a complaint to the Security Council so it will punish [Israel ] for its violations against Jordan.

"It's true that bilateral relations with Israel have seriously deteriorated and that, following Trump's disastrous decision [about Jerusalem], the [peace] agreement track is headed in the same direction. However, in light of the worsening situation in the Arab world and the unprecedented paralysis of the official Arab system, we must choose our future steps wisely, while taking into account the extent of our capabilities and the margins within which we can maneuver. [9]

 

[1] For more information about the protests and the fury against the U.S., see MEMRI Special Dispatch No.7220, Jordanian Writers Try To Quell Anger At U.S., Warn Against Targeting Americans, December 11, 2017.

Jordanian Writers Try To Quell Anger At U.S., Warn Against Targeting Americans  

[2] Al-Dustour (Jordan), December 11, 2017.

[3] Al-Ghad (Jordan), December 13, 2017.

[4] Al-Ghad (Jordan), December 11, 2017.

[5] Al-Ghad (Jordan), December 17, 2017. It should be noted that, according to the peace agreement signed between the countries in 1994, the areas were leased to Israel. The lease is to be renewed automatically every 25 years, unless either of the sides gives prior notice of termination, in which case there will be consultations about the issue.

[6] Albosala.com, December 11, 2017.

[7] Al-Rai (Jordan), December 14, 2017.

[8] Al-Rai (Jordan), December 13, 2017.

[9] Al-Ghad (Jordan), December 14, 2017.