Can Jordan’s treaty with Israel survive the Gaza genocide?

Two men in suits sit across from each other in reading chairs conversing

Secretary Antony J. Blinken attends a meeting with Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi in Amman, Jordan, November 4, 2023.

Polaris Newscom

Jordan is undergoing what appears to be its most serious diplomatic rift with Israel since the two countries established formal ties in 1994.

Amman has announced that it plans to beef up its military presence along its long border with Israel to thwart any Israeli plans to expel Palestinians in the occupied West Bank to Jordan.

The monarchy would resort to “all available means to prevent such a scenario from becoming reality,” Jordan’s Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh told Saudi-owned television channel Al Arabiya.

“Producing the conditions that would lead to forcible displacement by Israel is tantamount to declaring war on us, as it constitutes a material breach of the peace agreement,” Khasawneh told the channel.

Jordan’s prime minister emphasized that the normalization agreement signed with Israel 29 years ago would be reduced to “a document on a dusty shelf” if Israel does not respect its contents.

Israel and Jordan formally normalized relations with the Wadi Araba agreement in 1994, despite there being no restoration of Palestinian rights or an end to the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

Another Nakba

The forcible expulsion of Palestinians into neighboring Jordan would constitute another Nakba, repeating the catastrophe of 1948 when Zionist militias ethnically cleansed some 800,000 Palestinians from their land. Many of them fled to Jordan.

In 1967, when Israel invaded and conquered the West Bank, hundreds of thousands more Palestinians were forced east across the Jordan river.

Jordanian leaders fear that Israel wants to realize longstanding Zionist plans of turning Jordan into an “alternative homeland” for the Palestinians, upending the country’s current political order.

Jordan has “the largest number of Palestine refugees of all UNRWA fields,” the UN agency for Palestinian refugees reports.

A significant portion of Jordan’s population is of Palestinian origin. More than two million of them hold official refugee status and are registered with UNRWA. Most possess Jordanian citizenship.

In recent years, the Jordanian government has been criticized for arbitrarily revoking Jordanian nationality from thousands of citizens of Palestinian origin as part of an effort to maintain separate and distinct Jordanian and Palestinian identities.

Columbia University professor Joseph Massad described this as “an intended policy of Jordanization and de-Palestinization” in his book on the formation of Jordanian identity, Colonial Effects.

A former government minister who also served as the first Jordanian ambassador to Israel put it succinctly in a recent article.

“The resolve not to admit more Palestinians in the country comes from two directions: an establishment that does not wish further dilution of the Jordanian identity and an official and public position that does not want a Palestinian state outside Palestinian soil, and certainly not in Jordan,” Marwan Muasher wrote.

Water for energy deal scrapped

Jordan’s foreign minister Ayman Safadi stated last week that the country was backing out of a deal that would have seen it send solar-generated electricity to Israel in exchange for desalinated water.

“We will not sign this agreement any longer,” Safadi told Al Jazeera last week.

“Can you imagine a Jordanian minister sitting next to an Israeli minister to sign a water and electricity agreement, all while Israel continues to kill children in Gaza?”

The two countries had signed a memorandum of understanding on the deal along with the United Arab Emirates, which is also a party, two years ago. Thousands protested the deal in Amman upon its announcement, where Jordanian security forces beat and arrested demonstrators.

It calls for building a solar farm funded by the Emirates on Jordanian soil to provide electricity to Israel. In exchange, Israel would study building a desalination plant on the Mediterranean coast to provide water to Jordan.

The deal, which was supposed to be ratified last month, appeared motivated more by a political effort to firmly align Jordan within the so-called Abraham Accords, rather than by any practical benefits.

After all, Jordan has plenty of open land of its own where it can place solar panels, as well as access to the Red Sea. It has all the ingredients to desalinate its own water without the need for Israel.

The only winner, politically speaking, would have been Israel.

There are moreover strong grounds to doubt the project’s feasibility and sustainability.

While Safadi cited Israel’s attack on Gaza as the reason for Amman not signing the deal, he did not say whether or not Jordan might agree to return to it if a lasting ceasefire is achieved between Israel and Hamas.

Safadi noted that the 1994 Jordan-Israel peace treaty was “part of a wider Arab effort to establish a two-state solution. That has not been achieved.”

“Instead, Israel has not upheld its part of the agreement. So the peace deal will have to remain on the back burner gathering dust for now.”

Two-state dead end

Meanwhile, Jordan’s King Abdullah wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post this month, once again emphasizing the moribund two-state solution.

Amid declining support among Palestinians, calls for a two-state solution are a ritual never accompanied by any international action to bring it about. It is widely believed that Israel’s aggressive colonization of the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, has made the plan completely impractical as well as unjust.

While King Abdullah slams Israel’s continued expansion of its colonial settlements, he provides a grim outlook on alternative solutions.

“Israel’s unilateral actions have undermined the peace process and flouted the Oslo accords, which promised the two-state solution of peace and security for both sides,” he writes.

“Are there any realistic alternatives to a two-state solution? It is hard to imagine any.”

“A one-state solution would force Israel’s identity to accommodate competing national identities. A no-state solution would deny Palestinian rights and dignity,” the monarch adds.

The king condemns Israel’s mass slaughter of Palestinians since 7 October – now more than 14,000 – but also points to “the killings of more than 1,000 Israelis, including women and children, by Hamas” on 7 October.

But there is mounting evidence that the events of 7 October did not transpire as Israel has claimed.

Israel has produced no evidence for many of the atrocities its propagandists claimed Palestinians carried out, including beheading dozens of babies, setting large groups of people on fire and carrying out mass rapes.

There is mounting evidence that many Israelis were killed by their own forces that day, not by Palestinians.

Political stunts

Since the start of the month Jordan has airdropped modest amounts of medical supplies onto its field hospital in Gaza on several occasions – a largely political stunt aimed at showing its population angered by the Israeli genocide that Amman is taking action.

Portrayed as a heroic, “complex logistical operation” by Jordanian officials, and touted by local media as “breaking the siege” on Gaza, the initiative was fully coordinated with and approved by Israeli authorities in Tel Aviv, as reported by Israeli journalist Barak Ravid.

Days later, Israel bombed the vicinity of the Jordanian field hospital, injuring seven staff members, including Jordanian medics.

Prime Minister Khasawneh told the Al Arabiya channel that Israel had signaled to Jordan to evacuate its field hospital in Gaza multiple times since Israel’s assault on Gaza began, but that the Jordanians refused.

This came after reports emerged that the hospital has shuttered its gates for more injured and displaced Palestinians.

Jordan’s response avoided blaming Israel for attacking the hospital directly, instead portraying it as collateral damage to an Israeli attack on Palestinians.

“Israel’s exposing the hospital and its staff to danger during its bombing of our Palestinian brothers is an unacceptable and condemnable crime and represents a clear violation of international law,” Jordan’s foreign ministry said.

Jordan has strongly condemned Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza and its diplomats were instrumental in passing a UN General Assembly resolution last month calling for a ceasefire.

But ultimately, Jordan remains an integral part of US hegemony in the region.

Jordan is permitting the US to station additional military forces on its soil as what appears to be part of the US military buildup ordered by President Biden during Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza.

While Jordan’s cancellation of the water-for-energy deal with Israel was welcomed by its population, this is unlikely to satisfy demands from the people and parliament in Amman that Jordan do more in solidarity with Palestinians.


Tamara Nassar

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada.