With the approval of the Regulation Law and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s pledge to build more settlement units in the West Bank, Israel is dangerously moving further away from the viability of a two-state solution. The Israel Policy Forum gave 10 reasons why the two-state solution must be pursued, but the 5th reason is quite salient given recent developments: “Advancing two states will encourage moderate Arab states to increase their public, diplomatic support for Israel.” One notable example demonstrating the advantages of this approach is Israel’s relations with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994 and have since then expanded on economic and security cooperation. However, if a sovereign Palestine is not established in the West Bank and Gaza, it will hinder the Hashemites’ ability to increase public support for relations with Israel.
Some historical context is necessary to understand the complex relationship between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom. Their relatively good relations are rooted in their common fear of Palestinian nationalism. In 1970, the PLO waged an uprising to oust the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is what is known as Black September. Later on in 1971 after the civil war, a PLO faction assassinated Jordan’s prime minister in Cairo. In light of these events, the Hashemite Kingdom has also feared Palestinian attacks as a threat to their existence.
Today, with the rise of Islamic militants such as ISIS rising in the east, Israel and Jordan’s security concerns often stem from the Jordan Valley. The valley runs along Israel and Jordan’s 300-kilometer border and its terrain makes it strategically important for security defenses. The land goes as far down as 400 meters below sea and as high as 900 meters above sea. This makes it both defensible for Israel and Jordan against terrorist groups and accessible for non-state military actors like ISIS to roam through. In fact, the past year Jordan has experienced a rise in terror attacks from ISIS cells within its borders. Without Israeli-Jordanian cooperation over the Jordan Valley, more terrorist groups like ISIS will be able to go in and out of Israel and Jordan via the valley similar to how terrorist cells are able to go in and out of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai via the Philadelphi Corridor. Dan Diker, fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, says that the “Jordan Valley could easily be transformed into the ‘Philadelphi Corridor’ of the West Bank.”
Nevertheless, in spite of common national security concerns, Jordan’s internal political constraints make it difficult to develop more robust relations with Israel. More than half of Jordan’s population is of Palestinian origin. Additionally, the Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political wing of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood, is rising after the parliamentary elections in September. The IAF formed the largest opposition bloc with 10 seats after the parliamentary elections and is mainly made up of hardline Palestinians who are opposed to the peace agreement with Israel in principle. For example, on August 29, 2014, Himam Said, supervisor of the MB of Jordan, stated at a rally in Amman, “‘Say not to ties between Jordan and the Jews! Say not to the embassy of the Jews in Amman!”
In a 2011 national poll, 52% of Jordanians said they wanted to cancel the peace treaty with Jordan. However, not all of those who voiced support for canceling the treaty may be against peace with Israel in principle. Rather, they are opposed to peace with Israel if it does not commit to a sovereign Palestine. As former Israeli ambassador to Jordan Oded Eran says, “many Jordanians oppose ties with Israel, arguing there can be no normalization as long as Israel occupies war-won lands the Palestinians want for a state…but that real peace would likely only be possible if progress is made toward an Israeli-Palestinian deal.” In other words, those who may not be necessarily opposed to peace with Israel in principle become indistinguishable from those who are opposed to peace with Israel in principle, such as the Islamic Action Front in Jordan, if the two-state solution is not pursued.
This is further demonstrated in a 2010 poll conducted by Shilbey Telhami, Citizens in six Arab countries, including Jordan, were asked if they would support a peace deal if Israel committed to a two-state solution. Cumulatively, 88% said they would support a peace deal with Israel in principle. Jordan should not be viewed in a vacuum, and it is reasonable to assume that a majority of Jordanians would support a peace deal with Israel in principle if a two-state solution were achieved.
White it may be true that the Hashemite government is pragmatic enough to keep contact and security cooperation with Israel even during controversial times, they also understand their people. They know it will be difficult to encourage public and diplomatic support with Israel while there is little progress on a two-state solution and Israel is continuing to build settlements. That being said, it will be difficult for Israeli-Jordanian security cooperation to be as thorough as it can and needs to be.
The security of the Jordan Valley can also be preserved and even enhanced in the event of a two-state solution. The Israel Policy Forum’s Two-State Security plan gives a thorough outline on how Israel’s border security can be enhanced with security coordination between Israel, Jordan, and the PA security forces on the eastern side of the border under a two-state agreement. By committing to a two-state solution, Israel will be able to further develop relations with moderate Arab states, such as Jordan, with the public support of these states’ populations. More robust relations with moderate Arabs states can also help enhance the security of the Middle East and bring a more peaceful environment to the region.