This week marks the 20th anniversary of the successful conclusion of the peace treaty between Jordan and Israel. But, the failure of the peace process has led many observers to ponder whether Jordan could maintain peace with Israel. To be sure, the peace treaty has survived many strains place upon it by regional developments and the impasse in the peace process in general.
That being said, the two countries remain fundamentally divided by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Israeli policies have undermined peace and it is highly unlikely for Israel to change course. There is a growing feeling among Jordanians that prospects for a two-state solution — defined by Jordanians to be in the best national interest of Jordan — are fast being eclipsed.
Seen in this way, if left unchecked, current Israeli policies will create facts on the ground that will prejudice the outcome of any final settlement with the Palestinians. Therefore, it could be argued that the persistence of the current Israeli policies will most likely undermine the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.
In fact, the Israeli policies with regard to the Palestinians are hardly a recipe for peace. Failure to arrive at a two-state solution will lead to a Palestinian majority in the area between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, a nightmare for Israel that runs against the raison d’être of Zionism. To avoid this bi-national scenario, Israel may resort to policies that could constitute a monumental strategic threat to Jordan.
It seems that the Israeli leadership does not believe that it is both necessary and possible to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Israeli leaders feel no sense of urgency on this matter. The right-wing elements in particular place the Palestinian cause on the back-burner as its threat perception forces mainly on Iran. Adding insult to injury, the US administration is more interested in managing rather than resolving the conflict. Hence, Israeli politicians do not feel pressured by successive American administrations.
The unfolding events and lack of any prospects for peace will pose a question that Jordan needs to address. How will Jordan react to the failure of the peace process? As said before, over the years, a national consensus has emerged that the failure of the two-state paradigm would pose a threat to Jordan’s national security. Ironically, Jordanians have yet to outline what their country would do if an independent Palestinians state does not materialize.
Unlike Jordanians who failed to articulate what their country will do in the future should peace fail, Israelis have suggested a new, more troubling paradigm for resolving the conflict with the Palestinians. The new argument in Israel is that given the recent developments over the last decade and a half, chances for a viable Palestinian state are dim. Reflecting this new thinking, Giora Eland published a study promoting what he calls the “regional solution.” According to this scenario, the West Bank would be ruled by Jordan. He makes the case that if Israel were to pull out from the West Bank, Hamas would take over in a short period of time.
Indeed, a Palestinian state in the West Bank run by Hamas could pose unbearable security challenges for Israel. He based his argument on the notion that if “secular” Palestinians living in the West Bank were to choose between Hamas or Jordan, they would certainly choose Jordan. But, this argument fails to capture the basic position of Jordanians on the whole. Jordanians refuse to play a role in the West Bank other than helping the Palestinians establish their own independent state.
In a nutshell, the continuation of the status quo is not in the best interest of both Jordan and Israel. While the Israelis are very active in trying to find out a way out of this deadlock, Jordanians are still reactive. In years to come, Israel may resort to policies that further hurt Jordan. The question in this case has to do whether Jordanians have a Plan B to deal with the failure of the peace process. It seems as if both countries will collide in years to come and Jordan is yet to be prepared for this risky scenario.