Will Jordan make Israel pay a price for annexation?
King Abdullah of Jordan warned of dire consequences should Israel advance annexation plans in coming months.
“If Israel really annexes the West Bank in July, it would lead to a massive conflict with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,” he said in an interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel.
When asked if the suspension of the 1994 peace treaty between the two countries was on the table, the king said, “I don’t want to make threats and create a loggerheads atmosphere, but we are considering all options.”
The peace treaty, widely rejected by Jordan’s population, normalized relations with Israel despite there being no restoration of Palestinian rights or an end to Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party, reached an agreement to form a coalition after more than a year of political stalemate and three general elections.
The coalition agreement includes a commitment that the Israeli government and parliament will, from July, proceed with votes to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank.
July’s planned annexation includes the Jordan Valley, more than a quarter of the occupied West Bank along the border with Jordan.
Annexation would be a formal enunciation of what Israel has been committing on the ground for years with muted Jordanian and international resistance: the quiet ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians in the area.
Annexation would deal a final blow to any remaining pretense that the already moribund two-state solution remains viable, and inch Israel closer to a formal one-apartheid-state reality.
Lack of such pretense would accentuate Jordanian leaders’ fears of the country becoming an “alternative homeland” for Palestinian refugees.
The Trump administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan unveiled in January, which endorses annexation, also stipulates that “There shall be no right of return by, or absorption of, any Palestinian refugee into the State of Israel.”
In other words, the US administration is attempting to cancel Palestinians’ internationally recognized right to return to towns and villages from which they were expelled, and change their status in host countries from refugees to permanent residents.
“We must recognize that of all the Arab countries, the Kingdom of Jordan has valiantly attempted to take care of the Palestinian people in Jordan,” the plan states.
But Jordan sees the American plan, which would permanently settle millions of Palestinian refugees in Jordan, as a threat to its current political order.
“The two-state solution is the only way for us to be able to move forward,” King Abdullah told the German magazine.
“Leaders who advocate a one-state solution do not understand what that would mean,” he said of the solution which many observers increasingly argue is the only one that can ensure equal rights for all.
“What would happen if the Palestinian National Authority collapsed?”
Said it before
This was not the first time King Abdullah warned of a strained relationship with Israel.
In December, he said relations between the two countries were at an “all-time low.”
Ironically, he spoke those words at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank affiliated with the powerful Israel lobby group AIPAC.
Yet the monarch has made some moves apparently aimed at placating public opinion.
King Abdullah announced in 2018 that Jordan would not renew Israel’s 25-year leases on the Jordanian territories of al-Baqoura and al-Ghamr that were agreed in the 1994 peace treaty.
Al-Baqoura, in northwest Jordan where the Yarmouk and Jordan rivers meet, and al-Ghamr, south of the Dead Sea, were farmed or used by Israelis before and during the lease.
Until last month, Israeli farmers were permitted to enter al-Ghamr and harvest produce cultivated before the lease ended.
As of 30 April, the grace period ended and the territories are now closed to Israelis.
Israel-Jordan gas deal
Taking back control of al-Baqoura and al-Ghamr was relatively easy, given that they are small strips of land.
A much bigger measure of Jordan’s resolve would be to cancel the Israel-Jordan gas deal.
The agreement, which is set to cost Jordan at least $10 billion over 15 years, is staunchly opposed by the public and parliament since its signing in 2016.
The full text of the deal was not revealed until last year. Its contents confirmed suspicions that the Jordanian government misled the public about its involvement in the deal, as well as the conditions for its cancellation and its implications for the Jordanian economy.
Jordanian lawmakers said that the signature of the deal without the approval of parliament is unconstitutional as it may violate Article 33 of the Jordanian constitution.
That article requires treaties and agreements “which entail any expenditures to the Treasury of the State or affect the public or private rights of Jordanians” to be approved by the legislature.
The constitution also requires that “in no case shall the secret terms in a treaty or agreement be contrary to the overt terms.”
Lawmakers referred the matter to the constitutional court last year.
The court ruled that the deal does not fall under Article 33 and does not require parliamentary approval because it is formally between two companies as opposed to two governments.
However, one of those companies is the Jordanian national electricity provider NEPCO, which is wholly owned and controlled by the government.
Despite strong opposition, Israel began pumping natural gas to Jordan earlier this year.
Last month, Jordan’s constitutional court provided an interpretation of Article 33 at the request of the Jordanian cabinet.
The court concluded that international treaties and agreements are binding, and it is not permissible for parliament to pass laws to cancel such agreements or contradict their terms.
The campaign argues that the court’s statement “means that agreements formed outside the framework of Article 33 of the constitution, such as the agreement to import gas from the Zionist enemy, can be cancelled by the government,” the campaign stated.
The campaign is calling on the government not to shirk its “historical responsibility” to cancel the agreement, especially as the billions of dollars slated to be paid to Israel by Jordanian taxpayers and electricity customers could be directed to urgent needs at home, including Jordan’s health sector amid the new coronavirus pandemic.