In a TV interview, Jordanian MP Bassam Al-Manasir said that Jordan should not have joined the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS. Jordan should have remained neutral, he said, speaking on Al-Ghad Al-Arabi TV on December 25, 2014. In the interview, Al-Manasir further said that Jordan did not reap any reward from its peace agreement with Israel and talked about the marginalization of the Palestinian cause in the Arab and Islamic world.
Following are excerpts:
Bassam Al-Manasir: Ever since the Syrian revolution broke out, the countries in the region and the international superpowers have been divided into two camps – with the regime or with the opposition. Jordan, however, has remained neutral.
Recently, there has been a dangerous development in Jordan's foreign policy: It has joined the international coalition fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq. In my opinion, this is not justified, because we were not attacked [by ISIS]. It is unnecessary for us to join this camp. We should maintain our balanced policy.
The U.S.-led international coalition is capable of eliminating ISIS in Ein Al-Arab, which is just a small village or town. But they do not want to do this because they wish to drag Turkey into the fray.
Nobody consulted the Jordanian parliament about whether or not to join the coalition. You saw what happened in other parliaments – in France, in Britain, in the U.S., in Turkey, and in most of the countries that joined the coalition. I am talking about European countries, not the Arab ones. Among the Arab countries, only one has a parliament besides Bahrain. The other Arab countries that joined the coalition do not have a parliament, and those that do, it was not consulted. I believe that this was a mistake, because a resolution of such magnitude, of such great historic importance, should have been made with a broader level of participation.
I think that this was a mistake. We could have done without joining this coalition.
Bassam Al-Manasir: First of all, we do not need to carry out preemptive strikes against ISIS. ISIS is everywhere, but it needs a certain atmosphere in which to thrive. Until now, conditions in Jordan have not been conducive for ISIS. It does not pose a danger, but its ideology exists in Jordan. I myself have seen people in the towns of Zarqa or Ma'an flying ISIS flags, even though they are not ISIS members. This is an anti-government protest against unemployment, poverty, the cost of living, and the lack of treatment of basic issues. At times, the government pushes the people into the fold of ISIS. It creates an atmosphere conducive to this extremist ideology by [not addressing] the issues of the cost of living, the poverty, and the harsh economic conditions. Therefore, the citizen takes anti-government actions. I believe that this is the paradox. I hope, in all frankness, that there is a plan of a quick economic reform, which will prevent the "ISIS-ization" of the Jordanian people.
Interviewer: So you believe that ISIS constitutes an external threat only, and that Jordan does not need to join the anti-ISIS coalition?
Bassam Al-Manasir: ISIS is a hornet's nest, and there is no need to shake the nest.
Israel has never honored any peace agreement – neither with Jordan nor with Egypt. Israel honors agreements as long as they serve its interests.
Our problem in Jordan is that we consider this agreement to be part of the holy scriptures, while in fact it restrains the Jordanians and gives the Israelis a free rein. More than once we have said that this agreement could be a weapon in the hands of Jordan, and that Jordan does not have to be the weak party. When you abolish a state of war between yourself and another country, you should be rewarded for that. However, I'm sad to say that we did not collect the reward. Israel benefitted from the agreement, and we have become its border patrol.
Interviewer: Is the Palestinian cause still the number one Arab priority?
Bassam Al-Manasir: No.
Interviewer: Why not?
Bassam Al-Manasir: Sadly, it has suffered a great decline. This is part of a long-term plan. As you recall, our pan-Arab sentiments led us to follow the events in Palestine. This used to be the number one Arab and Muslim cause. But after the signing of the peace agreement, the Palestinian cause turned into the "Palestinian-Israeli conflict," and then into the "Gaza-Israel conflict," and after that, it turned into the "Hamas-Israel conflict." Eventually, it might turn into a conflict between a family in Gaza and Israel. This is how much we have downscaled the Palestinian cause, and have reneged on our historical role. We have turned into a Mother Teresa – we administer aid and provide equipment to hospitals. You can see the recent decline in Egypt's role regarding this issue, and sometimes they even participate in the Israeli aggression, and give their blessing to the throttling of our kin in Gaza.
This is, in fact, the "Israeli Spring," and it is an opportunity for Israel to eliminate the Palestinian cause.