OPINION: Amman Appears to have Stopped the Jordan Valley Annexation – but No One is Celebrating
Reports in the Israeli media that Mossad leader Yossi Cohen visited Jordan haven’t appeared anywhere in the official or even semi-official Jordanian media. Spokespersons of the government also are totally mum on whether Cohen or any other Israeli made a visit, or whether Jordan has in fact been informed that Israel has retreated from its initial idea of annexing nearly 30% of the West Bank.
In addition to all settlements in the occupied Palestinian areas, the Israeli plan was to include the Jordan Valley and the north of the Dead Sea.
Despite what appears to be good news for Jordan, no one has been celebrating in the Jordanian capital.
The Friday night Jordan TV news program made no mention of a visit. Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi was the sole guest and was interviewed in the studio for an entire hour in the 8 p.m. prime-time slot, yet no mention was made and no victory lap happened.
“We are against annexation, whether limited or expanded. Annexation is a violation of international law,” Safadi said.
We are against annexation, whether limited or expanded. Annexation is a violation of international law
Part of the Jordanian strategy is to debunk claims made by Israel and even some White House officials that opposition to annexation is not serious and nothing more than lip service.
A few days earlier, Safadi and the head of the Jordanian intelligence service made a surprise visit to Ramallah, during which they met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his senior political and security officials.
The Jordanian helicopter flight and the presence of the team onboard naturally had to be coordinated with Israel.
Officially, the aim of the visit was to support the Palestinians in their dire situation, but there is no doubt that the powers that be in Jordan also wanted to send a clear message to the Israelis.
Israeli officials understood that having the head of the Jordanian intelligence service visit his counterpart in Ramallah was no coincidence. Jordan was not making any threats, but as King Abdullah II told the German magazine Der Spiegel, all options are on the table.
The opposition to annexation is one in which not only are the political and security apparatuses in sync, but Jordan’s government and people are in total agreement that unilateral annexation of occupied Palestinian lands will not be accepted.
Jordanians are thus in total sync with their Palestinian brothers.
A day after the visit to Ramallah, the king spent nearly an entire day speaking with a bipartisan group of American senators and congresspersons.
Even the prime minister, Omar Razzaz, chimed in. As Jordan has no ministry of defense, the prime minister is automatically defense minister. As such, Razzaz said Israel had to make a choice.
“Israel has to choose between the path of peace or that of a clash,” he stated.
In addition to the need for a green light on annexation from the White House, Israeli leaders know they need the approval, whether public or tacit, of the country sharing the longest border with Israel, one that has signed a peace treaty with them.
The Jordanian campaign against annexation began last year when the idea was first floated by Israelis, triggering a multi-country, multi-platform campaign that appeared to produce a retraction.
Jordan’s position has not been easy. Many fear that opposing US/Israeli plans would jeopardize a five-year agreement for an annual support plan worth $1.25 billion from the American people to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
The king’s personal relationship with senior US senators and representatives has come in handy. During the recent teleconference, he made sure they understood the gravity of the situation and its dire consequences.
Apparently, Jordanian efforts, as well as Arab and international efforts, have succeeded: Public opposition by members of US Congress from both parties has strengthened Jordan’s hands and encouraged Amman to keep up the pressure while Israeli and US officials discuss the future of the Palestinians between themselves.
Jordan, a small but strategically important country, has usually hesitated to take sides on any political controversy, and as a key US ally, officials in Amman have made sure not to do anything to anger their American colleagues.
But the act of annexation is an existential issue for Jordan, and it is not willing to react in the way it reacts to many other regional issues.
The Jordan-Israel peace agreement includes in its first article a declaration of the borders between the two countries. Having the Jordan Valley become part of the State of Israel would mean a total shake-up of the very basis of that agreement, and thus endanger the entire regional peace process.
Whether or not annexation takes place, the Jordanians appear to have succeeded, at least partially, in pushing away any possibility of the inclusion of the Jordan Valley. What remains to be seen is whether Jordanian and world opposition to any annexation at all will have an effect on Tel Aviv.
Daoud Kuttab is an award-winning Palestinian journalist and former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University., Follow him on Twitter @daoudkuttab