An alliance tested

An alliance tested, Israel Hayom, Prof. Eyal Zisser, July 25, 2017

In light of all these factors, Israel is a strategic partner of utmost importance. The Jordanians are impeding Islamic State and warding off Iran, while Israel provides Amman with water and gas and lends a significant hand to help with security. This is a real interest for both sides, and it appears, therefore, that despite the current tensions and upheaval, the two countries will maintain their strategic partnership, even if it is hidden from view.

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The surprising thing about the diplomatic crisis that erupted with Jordan Sunday night is, without a doubt, the concerted effort from both sides — specifically, from our perspective, the Jordanian regime — to demonstrate restraint, lower the flames and allay the furor gripping the Jordanian capital. A solution was indeed found on Monday that allowed the embassy staff to return safely to Israel, and we can assume efforts will keep being made to resolve the Temple Mount crisis, which came to a head last week.

On second thought, however, this is not much of a surprise. This is precisely what one should have expected from the Jordanian regime, which recognizes Israel’s importance to the stability of the Hashemite kingdom and has always preferred the path of dialogue and moderation.

The Jordanian regime’s cool-headed restraint comes after weeks of it repeatedly exposing its darker side, particularly in the form of vicious incitement against Israel, which is rooted in the Palestinians’ considerable demographic weight in the kingdom, as well as the religious radicalization washing over portions of the Jordanian public. It was sobering to see Jordanian intellectuals and public officials opting to pour oil on the flames, such as Jordanian Parliament Speaker Atef Tarawneh, who praised the murderers of two Israeli policemen on the Temple Mount, in the same spot where King Abdullah’s great-grandfather was murdered 66 years ago.

This tension appears to be structured, however, and Israeli-Jordanian relations have always been able to exist in its shadow. On one hand, the countries share deep strategic understandings and cooperate with one another intimately, mostly out of sight. But this all takes place amid extremely anti-Israeli public opinion and an exceedingly hostile and poisonous Jordanian media. It’s possible that letting off steam against Israel is the regime’s way to regulate pressure and temper emotions, thus allowing it to pursue its own interests.

Ultimately, relations with Jordan date back to the state’s inception and even further, to the Hashemite kingdom’s ties to the Zionist movement during the British Mandate. And yet this strategic concord did not prevent Jordan from joining the Arab invasion of Israel in May 1948, or jumping on Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s war wagon in June 1967.

In recent years, Jordan and Israel have united against two enemies. The closer one is the Islamic State group, whose extremist religious screed has influenced swaths of the Jordanian public. Islamic State has also carried out a series of terrorist attacks inside the kingdom, and we cannot forget the downed Jordanian pilot burned alive in Islamic State captivity.

The second enemy, farther afield but of greater importance, is Iran, whose steadily growing foothold in Syria is casting a dark shadow over Jordan and Israel alike.

Jordan is dealing with millions of refugees from Iraq and Syria. It lacks water and energy resources; its economy is faltering. The Palestinian question is also a constant headache for Jordanian rulers. These challenges jeopardize stability and calm inside the kingdom.

In light of all these factors, Israel is a strategic partner of utmost importance. The Jordanians are impeding Islamic State and warding off Iran, while Israel provides Amman with water and gas and lends a significant hand to help with security. This is a real interest for both sides, and it appears, therefore, that despite the current tensions and upheaval, the two countries will maintain their strategic partnership, even if it is hidden from view.

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