In an interview published by the leading German newspaper Der Spiegel, King Abdullah II of Jordan threatened a “massive conflict” if Israel were to annex parts of the West Bank. Abdullah stopped short of stating that he would cancel Jordan’s peace treaty, but did say that his government is “considering every option.”
Naturally, the Western media is using the Jordanian threat to argue why Israel should not go forth with the reportedly planned annexation of parts of Judea and Samaria. However, if we look deeper, it should become apparent that Abdullah does not want to deal with this issue and the escalation with Israel is not exactly on his wish list. In a telling manner, the king indicated in the same interview with Der Spiegel that this is a time for the region to focus on fighting the coronavirus together instead of engaging in a divisive discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Abdullah’s dilemma is that he depends on Israel, as without its backing his government would be overrun by internal and external foes. He is thus involved in an intricate dance whereby Jordan has been assuming an increasingly anti-Israel posture while still keeping the peace treaty intact. Here, it is important to note that as Jordan continues to assume an increasingly anti-Israel stance, Israel’s benefit from artificially supporting Abdullah’s monarchy continues to abate. Furthermore, as it is highly questionable how long the Jordanian monarchy can survive, the uncertainty this presents may serve as a deterrent for Israel to entrust Jordan with strategically sensitive long-term commitments. Additionally, Israel would be prudent to plan for the possibility that the peace treaty will be abrogated by Abdullah’s replacement.
And thus, while Israel certainly benefits from a stable Eastern border and from having Jordan as a buffer to limit Israel’s exposure to Iran’s proxies in the East, we should not lose sight of the essential economic and security importance of Israel to Jordan. As Jordan is certain that Israel will continue to uphold its end of the bargain, it has been able to assume a more bellicose stance toward Israel in word and in deed. And yet every time Jordan is unhappy, it is suggested that Israel should placate its neighbor. However, due to the aforementioned inherent instability of the Jordanian monarchy, even significant goodwill gestures by Israel are likely to only have a marginal payoff. As such, Jordan’s threats should be considered but at the end of the day should have little influence on Israel’s decision-making.
It’s essential to note that Jordan’s repositioning toward Israel does not exist in a vacuum – there is a powerful force that pushes Jordan further than it may go otherwise. Reports out of Europe suggest that the European Union is threatening severe punitive measures against Israel if the Jewish State were to exercise its sovereignty in parts of Judea and Samaria under its control. Namely, France, Ireland, Sweden, and Luxembourg have been urging for the harshest response should Israel go forth with the plan. In this case, as in many others, it is the Europeans that are assuming the most adversarial position towards Israel and are forcing the Arab states to adjust in turn.
Jordan, with its 70% Palestinian Arab population, has to wear the mantle of the most vocal state representative of Palestinian interests. King Abdullah II, a Hashemite, can ill afford to allow the vast majority of Jordanians to see him as betraying their kin. So regardless of Jordan’s national interests or the king’s own preferences, he cannot allow Europeans to display a more aggressive stance than his own.
It’s clear that Europe has an unhealthy obsession with Israel. While the European dignitaries accuse Israel of breaching the international law, it is in fact the Europeans who on the one hand are violating international law by creating facts on the ground via illegal construction within areas under Israel’s control – Area C per the Oslo Agreement. On the other hand, it is precisely this action by the Europeans that necessitates the annexation by Israel.
Furthermore, Europe’s flaunting of international law is even more hypocritical when it becomes clear that the European nations do not abide by the same rules that Israel is expected to follow. Of course, there is also the issue of European nations financing a slew of anti-Israel NGOs whose entire raison d’etre is to demonize the Jewish state in order to fit a predetermined narrative. And taking the matters even further, despite EU’s claims to the contrary, European financing clearly subsidizes Palestinian Authority’s pay-for-slay policy.
As the European Union is Israel’s largest trading partner, Israel should be aware of the possible risks that could result from a demonstrative European response and act based on its cost-benefit calculus. However, given Europe’s hypocritical and criminal treatment of Israel, the Jewish State would be wise to unequivocally assert its sovereignty regardless of how it is viewed in Paris, Dublin, Stockholm or Luxembourg. And it should be made clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that Brussels has no veto power to interfere in Jerusalem’s matters.