Two weeks ago, the architect of the US peace plan for the Middle East — the “deal of the century” — landed in Jordan. Jared Kushner was in the Hashemite Kingdom as part of his tour of the region to push his plan before the economic workshop takes place in Bahrain on 25-26 June.
The administration of US President Donald Trump seems to be deliberately holding back the details of the plan’s political agenda, probably because it suspects that it will not be supported enthusiastically by the Arabs, let alone the Palestinians who are not looking for “prosperity”, but dream of a lasting peace.
“A day before Kushner’s visit to Amman, a special envoy for Bahrain’s King Hamad was in Jordan,” the former Chief of the Jordanian Royal Court, Jawad Anani, told me. “The envoy met with King Abdullah II and discussed the ‘Peace to Prosperity’ workshop with His Majesty.” Anani added that Kushner only represents a portion of the pressure on Jordan. “This is due to our position on the conflict.”
While Jordan is geographically small, it has tried to have regional influence by playing a positive role in the Middle East. It welcomes refugees from war zones in the region, hosts talks between Yemen’s warring parties, and keeps warm relations with both Riyadh and Doha regardless of the ongoing Gulf crisis. However, this US plan, which Jordan is being pressured to accept, would threaten its regional role and present a direct challenge to its national security.
“Whether you are an official sitting in your office or an ordinary person sitting in a café, we have nothing in Jordan to talk about except the ‘deal of the century’ and its implications on both the kingdom and the region,” explained Jordan’s former Foreign Minister Kamel Abu Jaber. “The question that needs to be answered is, does Amman have the option to reject this plan? If we accept it, there will be consequences, and if we reject it, there will be consequences too. It is a dilemma.”
Perhaps the White House may have thought that since the Kingdom is passing through a bad economic situation, Jordanians will accept any plan that will ease the ongoing crisis. However, since Jordan is the only country that has official custodianship of the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, it is unlikely to be ready to change its position, regardless of the cost.
Jordan has long reiterated its call for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Last year, at the UN General Assembly, King Abdullah said that only two-states based on international law and relevant UN resolutions would meet the needs of both parties. Despite the fact that Jordan has been sticking to this principle, Trump’s policies have increasingly made it unachievable.
That leaves us with two remaining prospects: either a one-state solution or a confederation, both of which are rejected firmly by the Jordanian government. This highlights the fact that the previous efforts to achieve peace have been dashed by the Trump administration’s biased position on the conflict.
Significantly, Palestinian officials acknowledge Jordan’s role and coordinate with Amman accordingly. Speaking to the Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in April, he told me that Jordan has a central and strategic role. “Jordan’s position is based on a thorough understanding of the facts on the ground, geopolitics, balance and fluctuation of interests,” Saeb Erekat pointed out. “What President Trump’s policy represents are drastic changes that violate international law and legitimacy. The Jordanian position has become a focal point in maintaining the two-state principle on the 1967 borders.”
Moreover, US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt suggested last month that the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides essential services to millions of Palestinian refugees, should effectively be shut down. Given the fact that Jordan hosts the largest number of Palestinian refugees in the region, this would have a serious impact on the Kingdom, which may then need to assume UNRWA’s duty of care towards them. Although this would be extremely difficult, Jordan will have little alternative but to ensure that refugees are handled appropriately. This could be seen as another sign of the US pressure on Amman to either accept the Kushner plan or cope with the consequences by itself.
Since Trump arrived in the White House in early 2017, US foreign policy has shifted in a direction that previous administrations have never taken. In the past, there were special considerations for the important role played by America’s allies in the Middle East. However, the current administration seems to have abandoned this and turned its back to one of its longstanding friends in the region, making Jordan a primary victim of Kushner’s peace plan. This can only be due to Washington’s biased, pro-Israel position on the Zionist state’s conflict with the Palestinians.