In Jordan, It Is Anyone but Bibi
Jordanian protesters burn a portrait of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu bearing a Nazi swastika during a demonstration in front of the US Embassy in Amman, on Aug. 3, 2014. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP via Getty Images)

In Jordan, It Is Anyone but Bibi

Anti-Netanyahu sentiment in the kingdom is personal, some experts say; there is no real difference between the major Israeli parties. Others, however, see Yair Lapid as genuinely more supportive of aspirations for a two-state solution.

[Amman] The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is following closely the upcoming Israeli parliamentary election with a single person in mind: Binyamin Netanyahu. The election is scheduled for November 1 and polls show results that are too close to call.

Bassam Badarin, a well-informed Jordanian journalist, told The Media Line that Jordan was obsessed with the issue of a possible return of the former Israeli prime minister. He said opposition to Netanyahu’s return was not only due to his general right-wing political stand on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “They still believe that the former Israeli prime minister [supports] the idea of annexing the Jordan Valley [in the West Bank].”

Badarin says that, unlike previous Israeli elections, Jordan is unusually interested in the outcome of the upcoming election. “Their effort is to find ways to support the increase of Arab voter turnout in Israel and at the same time, they are trying ensure that the head of the Islamist movement, [Ra’am party leader] Mansour Abbas will not in any way join the Netanyahu coalition.” Badarin, however, is not sure what they can do to accomplish their goals.

Former Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher argues that Jordan would like to see an Israeli government that is “committed to withdrawal from the occupied territories” and to respecting the human and national rights of Palestinians. “Unfortunately, such a commitment is lacking in all the major parties in Israel,” he told The Media Line.

Muasher, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he oversees research on the Middle East, said, “While a potential comeback to power by Mr. Netanyahu is particularly problematic to Jordan, it is not evident that any other ruling coalition is going to be more forthcoming on resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

Jordanian military analyst Mamoun Abu Nuwar, a retired Jordanian Air Force major general, told The Media Line that for Jordan, there is nothing to gain from whoever wins the election in Israel. “Both sides want a Jewish state, and they are all against an independent Palestinian state. Abu Nuwar says that Jordan has erred strategically by its gushing support for and agreements with Israel. “For Jordan, the results of the elections pose a strategic threat due to the fact that we are handing them water and energy sources.” Abu Nuwar concedes that the Jordanian position is personal. “It is clearly a personality issue regarding Netanyahu because there is no real ideological difference between both sides.”

Jordanian political analyst Tagreed Odeh told the Media Line that Jordan is keeping a close eye on the Israeli election because of its potential effects on the region. “The worst thing that can happen would be the return of Netanyahu to power, which will be yet another obstacle to efforts for peace and will increase hate speech.”

Odeh rejects the idea of equating the two blocks ideologically. “There is a difference between Netanyahu and [the Yesh Atid leader, Prime Minister Yair] Lapid. For example, Lapid has publicly expressed support at the UN for the two-state solution that Jordan has always promoted. This is why for Jordan the election is strategic when it comes to its effects on the ground and will determine how Jordanian officials will deal with the occupation state.”

During Netanyahu’s administration, an understanding was reached with King Abdullah and in the presence of the US secretary of state, but Jordan feels that the Israeli leader failed to honor that understanding on the ground at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

King Abdullah refused to take phone calls from Netanyahu during his last years in power but warmed to Israeli leaders after his departure.

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