Although he faces a series of challenges, some of which could escalate soon, King Abdullah of Jordan should be quite pleased with recent trends, both within the kingdom and along its borders.
This can be understood and analyzed across a number of factors.
More importantly, it appears that the turmoil inside the royal court has subsided. April’s alleged plot against the king, led by his half-brother Prince Hamza, is over. Some high-ranking scapegoats have been “sacrificed” and tried, but the family is working hard to show renewed unity in their ranks.
At the same time, Jordan was able to block a third wave of Covid-19. Following the second wave which ended in May, Jordanians are gradually being vaccinated, the kingdom is receiving donations for new doses and it has put in place strong border surveillance to prevent entry into the Delta and other variations. This situation could change quickly, but it seems that King Abdullah has gained a few months of respite.
The economy is recovering at best from the previous pandemic wave. Jordan predicts that by 2021 it will receive a total of $ 4 billion in international aid. Of this sum, two billion dollars are intended for public programs such as health and social protection, and not for security or military needs. This is a large sum for development projects.
However, despite positive economic indicators, the Jordanian economy remains fragile, lacks major growth engines and remains heavily dependent on international aid.
Outside, the regional and international status of King Abdullah is back. He became the first Arab leader to meet President Joe Biden in Washington, on a visit that could mark the start of a new regional role for Jordan.
King Abdullah is able to promote Israeli-Palestinian diplomatic talks without opposing the Gulf states that signed the Abrahamic Accords. Rather than being mutually exclusive, Abdullah found a way, under the Biden administration, to deliver Palestinian history to the momentum of the Abrahamic Accords, using his natural position as “guardian” of the Palestinian question.
Meanwhile, Jordan is forging new relations with Egypt and Iraq. This axis is essential to stability, economic development and Jordan’s struggle to influence Iraq against Iranian influence (and at the same time against Saudi and Emirati influence).
Iran is seeking to strengthen its Shiite militias in Iraq, led by Kataib Hezbollah. Jordan is preparing for the US exit from Iraq and is working to secure its economic, political and security interests in Iraq and along the border, so that it does not become an eastern zone for aggression backed by the United States. Iran.
In Washington, Abdullah spoke about the Iranian-made drones that attacked Jordan and his concerns about Iran’s activities in the region. The king also mentioned that the conflict between Israel and Iran in Syria affects Jordan and how, on several occasions, missiles fired at Israel from Syria have landed in Jordan. This is all the more important given the fact that the United States is preparing to move part of its military presence from Qatar to Jordan in order to reduce exposure within the scope of Iran’s firepower.
On the Syrian front, Jordan has been successful in getting other Arab countries to improve their relations with the Assad regime, while improving trade channels along the border. It is not yet clear how the resumption of fighting in the Dara region of southern Syria will impact this trend.
Jordan is studying the new government in Israel and considers a number of areas for improvement from its perspective, while recognizing the limits to the extent to which relations can actually improve under current conditions.
After years of disagreement between Abdullah and Netanyahu, a series of high-level bilateral meetings between the king and Israeli leaders has raised hopes for a better future. The basic issues have not been resolved, but a new process of dialogue has clearly started.
In addition, several obstacles have been removed; Israel has agreed to increase Jordan’s water supply, and the World Bank’s decision to abolish the Red Sea-Dead Sea program has raised a thorny issue between the parties. Tensions remain very high, however. Israeli actions in East Jerusalem and the construction of settlements in Judea and Samaria are consistently condemned by Jordan, as they always have. King Abdullah is aware that the new Israeli government cannot maneuver in any meaningful way vis-à-vis the Palestinians. He recently said the government is not ideal, but his speech to its leaders gives him optimism.
Moreover, the relatively calm period gives the king the opportunity to advance relations with Israel – with a minimum of public anger. This is in stark contrast to previous periods when protests led the king to make the political decision to disrupt relations as a tool to calm unrest.
The above leads to the conclusion that the glass ceiling of Israeli-Jordanian relations remains in place, although after years of deadlock there is now a way to strengthen diplomatic, civil and economic relations – albeit below it. of this ceiling.
For Israel, improving relations is in the national interest. The peace treaty with Jordan is a key strategic asset, facilitating security agreements along Israel’s eastern border, pushing back threats from the east and supporting regional stability. Jordan’s influence on the region is positive. So even though the peace between the two nations is cold, not least because of the anti-Israel sentiment of the Jordanian public, the relationship is another part of the regional puzzle which, combined with the Abrahamic accords, allows for multilateral regional cooperation that includes Israel on a series of key civil issues.
The bottom line is that the Biden administration should see Jordan as a key part of its regional stability architecture, alongside Egypt and the Gulf states. It would be a waste not to use King Abdullah’s window of opportunity to step forward with his vast experience and skills as an innovator, recruiter and connector who can energize regional processes.
Tomer Barak (IDF, Ret.) Is a publishing expert at the MirYam Institute. He ended his military career in 2021 after 21 years of service in Israeli military intelligence and in the strategic planning division.
The MirYam Institute is the premier international forum for Israel-focused discussion, dialogue and debate, focused on campus presentations, engagement with international lawmakers, and landmark trips to the State of Israel. Follow their work at www.MirYamInstitute.org.