In the turbulent Middle East, Israel’s peace treaty with Jordan is a linchpin of regional stability that plays a positive role far beyond the territory of the two nations.
For that reason, it is a troubling sign that Jordan has decided not to renew an agreement embedded in the peace treaty that allowed Israel to use two tracts of Jordanian land along the border.
As Reuters reports, “King Abdullah has been under increasing public pressure to end the arrangements with Israel. He told senior Jordanian politicians the kingdom wanted to exercise its full sovereignty over the two areas.”
The peace treaty has never been wildly popular in Jordan, but opposition to it has flared with President Trump’s policies, including the decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Trump’s moves to slash aid for the Palestinians, including defunding UNRWA, the United Nations agency that cares for Palestinian refugees, could be especially devastating for Jordan.
Over two million registered Palestinian refugees live in Jordan, more than in any other country. There are ten recognized Palestinian refugee camps throughout the country, accommodating nearly 370,000 Palestinian refugees, or 18 percent of the country total. Additionally, nearly 10,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria have sought assistance from UNRWA in Jordan. The majority suffer from abject poverty and live under a precarious legal status. In Jordan, UNRWA runs 171 schools, two vocational training centers, 25 primary health centers, ten community-based rehabilitation centers and 14 women’s program centers. All these crucial programs now face drastic funding shortfalls as a result of Trump’s cruel decision.
King Abdullah recognizes the importance of the peace treaty with Israel, but he is not immune to public opinion. Activists and politicians have been vocal against a renewal of the land leases, which they said perpetuated Israeli “occupation” of Jordanian territory. An incident last year in which an Israeli security guard killed two Jordanian citizens within the Israeli embassy compound in Amman has also added considerably to the tensions.
The president’s son-in-law and special adviser Jared Kushner has spent almost two years working on a so-called “peace plan” for the Israelis and Palestinians — while his administration steadily works to advance the agenda of the Israeli right and choke off all ties with the Palestinian leadership. Periodically, reports surface that the proposal is about to be revealed – but so far it has not been. Rumors float about what may or may not be in the proposal. Meanwhile, the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate further.
Whether or not Kushner ever releases his so-called plan, the reality is that Trump has gutted US relations with the Palestinians and is doing his best to inflict real suffering on innocent civilians. It is now clear that his one-sided, punitive policies could undermine a peace treaty between Israel and an Arab partner already in place — a treaty that has worked well for over two decades.