By Arieh O’Sullivan, Media Line
King Abdullah is in a lose-lose situation with his harsh criticism of Israel’s government.
Jordanian King Abdullah’s harsh criticism of Israel has little chance of ending the peace treaty which is vital for Jordan’s security, but highlights the dire future the monarch sees for his country.
Abdullah, who is scheduled to leave for Washington this weekend to attend U.S. President Barack Obama’s Nuclear Security Summit, urged the White House to impose new peace talks on the Israelis and Palestinians before a new round of violence erupted.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the monarch rebuked Israeli premier Binyamin Netanyahu and said relations with Israel were at an all time low and economically stagnant.
“Unfortunately, for the first time since my father made peace with Israel, our relationship with Israel is at an all-bottom low,” Abdullah was quoted as saying. “It hasn’t been as bad as it is today and as tense as it is today. The political trust is gone. There is no real economic relationship between Jordan and Israel.”
Abdullah inherited the peace forged in 1994 by his late father King Hussein and relations have never flowered under his reign. He is under increasing pressure at home to sever the ties with the Jewish state.
“King Abdullah would never do that. There is no conceivable way this could ever be in the realm of a possibility,” Shadi Hamid, deputy director of the Brookings Doha Center, told The Media Line.
Hamid described Abdullah as a highly cautious leader who privileged his relationship with the United States and Western powers and would do nothing to undermine that, such as harming the peace treaty with Israel.
“He is not popular at home or as a leader regionally,” Hamid said. “But the one thing that he does have is U.S. support, and he is not going to undermine that.”
“What Jordan does really well is use its great public relations machine to present themselves as a moderate oasis in a sea of rejectionism,” Hamid said.
But Prof. Yoram Meital, an Israeli political scientist from Ben Gurion University, countered that the Jordanian king was actually drawing more fire with his anti-Israel statements from opponents inside Jordan.
“The king is finding himself in a trap of his own rhetoric. So many leaders fall into this trap. The more he criticizes Israel the more he draws criticism to himself,” Meital said.
“If he shuts up he’ll be portrayed as an Israeli servant. If he increases his anti-Israel rhetoric his opposition will urge him to do more than just talk. He’s in a lose-lose situation,” said Meital, the head of The Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy.
Abdullah is increasingly concerned that the absence of a peace process leading to a Palestinian state would come at the expense of his kingdom, which has a majority of ethnic Palestinians.
“I don’t think his statements are just rhetoric,” said Hamid. “Abdullah feels he is being boxed in and a two-state solution would show that Jordan is not an alternative homeland for the Palestinians and that would be a way to protect his kingdom’s identity.”
“He is worried and angry and concerned and the message he is saying is ‘listen, it’s getting bad here and something has to be done,’” Hamid said.
While diplomatic links between Israel and Jordan may be at an all-time low, strong security ties between the two countries are seen as vital and a cornerstone to both country’s futures.
Military and intelligence sharing links have been relatively robust, stable and highly secretive. Israeli and Jordanian troops share joint procedures for securing the long border against terrorist infiltrations. Israel sells Jordan military equipment such as armored vehicles and also purchases items in deals aimed mainly at strengthening its military infrastructure and supporting the monarchy. Israel has also provided training to some of Jordan’s forces and pilots.
“It is important to pay attention to what King Abdullah said and what he didn’t say. He didn’t relate to the security dialogue and cooperation. And that is not by chance. In this channel there is plenty of talk and that is continuing,” Meital said.
“The Jordanian leadership needs to maneuver between its true strategic commitment to peace (with Israel) as part of Jordan’s vital national interest on the one hand, and on the other King Abdullah is hanging the responsibility of this stalemate in peace talks on Israeli policies.”
“Their fear,” Meital added, “is that Jordan will have to pay the price.”
Meanwhile, the Israeli air carrier Arkia announced Wednesday that it would soon begin direct flights from Tel Aviv to the Jordanian Red Sea resort of Aqaba as part of a new destination for Israeli tourists. The campaign was being launched despite travel warnings against visits to Jordan by Israel’s National Security Council.