Buried in Wadi Araba Fifteen years of defunct peace

By Muna Awwad

(Kana’an eBulletin – Volume IX – Issue 2052)

After 15 years of signing the Wadi Araba Peace Treaty between Jordan and Israel, this treaty has nothing to show except failure in the thinking that peace with a state like Israel, which insists on maintaining its castle mentality and expansionist characteristics, could garner any positive results.

On October 26, 1994 Jordan became the second country, after Egypt, to normalize relations with Israel when the treaty of peace between both countries was signed, after a state of war had existed between them since 1948.

Signing an agreement with Israel was not received well by the Jordanian people and civil society which all had a good experience of what Israel was like. A series of demands and opposing activities have been taking place in Jordan since 1994; and now, 15 years later, as we come close to the anniversary of this historical event, the futility of this mirage peace is becoming more apparent to all Jordanians, including its initial supporters.

HM King Abdullah II sounded very pessimistic when he was interviewed by the Israeli Haaretz newspaper on Tuesday October 6; responding to a question on how happy the celebration of the 15th anniversary of the treaty will be, HM said, “Not as happy as it was when the peace treaty was signed; our relationship is getting colder…..Today for a Jordanian to go into Israel is almost impossible, we have only about 150,000 Israelis who come and visit us a year and most of these are Israeli Arabs, trade is almost non-existent; the 15th anniversary is a reminder that when there is commitment to respecting the rights of the other, when there is leadership with the courage to make difficult decisions in the interest of the people, peace can be achieved.”

Although the parliament at the time ratified the treaty, nowadays many voices in the present parliament are calling for annulling it.

MP Khalil Atiyeh said, “Israel was the only side that benefited from this treaty while no respect was paid to Jordan at any moment; this was all due to Israel’s lack of commitment to the peace treaty; during the past 15 years, Israel polluted our waters, set our agricultural lands on fire, airing every now and then the notion of the alternative homeland, and many other violations that made Israel’s image in Jordan even worse than before. We hope the King’s statement would encourage the government to stop all forms of normalization with this enemy.”

Islamic activist and analyst Ali Abul Sukkar also thought that it is logical for the Jordanian leadership to reach this point. He said, “The nature of the Israeli attitude which is always arrogant towards others had to be reflected on the relation with Jordan, especially that Israel ignores committing to many articles mentioned in the treaty. This treaty should end up like the Jordanian-British treaty which died before completing its 10th year in order for the Jordanian official decision to be liberated from its commitment to such a treaty.”
However, many others believe that the official stance falls far short of the adequate response to Israel’s continuous violations.

Writer and activist Hisham Bustani believes that the matter is too complex as to be expressed simply in statements. He told The Star, “Israel and Jordan are organically tied by three unbreakable chains: The treaty, the strategic alliance to the USA project in the Arab region, and the nature as functional states. Jordanian-Israeli relations will continue as before, on the economic level, and especially on the security level. We know there’s high security ‘cooperation’ between Jordan and Israel, which includes the US too.”

On the other hand, the official statement brought hope to the many that are waiting for such a step. Badi Rafay’a, a leading anti-normalization activist, said, “If this statement was practically aiming to evaluate the relation with Israel, and not just a temporary stance, it would be a historical success that needs full support.”

Abul Sukkar explained to The Star how the Jordanian-Israeli peace agreement was like a curse on the Jordanian state, people, and life. “This treaty was an insult to Jordan and its people on different levels, especially in terms of isolating Jordan from its Arab and Islamic dimension and making Jordan according to some countries a crossing for the Zionist enemy, its policies, and its products; this had a negative reflection on Jordan’s economy as well when some countries hesitated to allow Jordanian products into their lands fearing that they could include goods of Israeli origin.”

Furthermore, Rafaya’a pointed out that “the treaty had contributed in worsening the conditions of general freedoms in Jordan; people didn’t want this relation, and this led to restrictions applied by the government on the freedom of expression.”

From another dimension, the step taken by Jordan of starting diplomatic relations with Israel had more disadvantages for Jordan than benefits.
“By signing the treaty, we acknowledged Israel’s illegitimate right of occupying Arab land and its illegitimate establishment of its state over the destruction, killing and expulsion of the native Arab population, and we acknowledged all the measures that were taken to strengthen and entrench this illegitimate state,” said Bustani.

According to analysts, the continuation of Israeli violations in Jerusalem, which have been elevated to a higher level recently, has aggravated Jordanians on all levels. Abul Sukkar said, “Jordan has the official authority over Al-Haram Al-Sharif Compound and other religious places in Jerusalem according to this treaty; what can the excavations and attacks made by Israel there be described but total disregard towards Jordan?”

Researcher Abdullah Hammoudeh commented, “Tunnels dug under Al-Aqsa Mosque, destroying houses, and seizing properties are all forms of insult towards the Jordanian sovereignty.”

On the economic level, the initial benefits that the treaty brought with it have regressed as things turned out to be heading backwards after 15 years.
“There is an economic role that Jordan must play in favor of Israel: The peace treaty requires not only ending Jordanian economic boycott of Israeli goods, but also requires Jordan to co-operate in terminating economic boycotts of third parties directed at Israel (i.e. Arab countries that are yet to normalize with Israel and non-Arab countries and groups that are still boycotting Israel on ethical basis); transforming Jordan into a “facilitator” and a “mediator” to the Israeli economy. The “peace” treaty talks in many of its articles about establishing a “regional framework of partnership” and a “framework of wider regional economic co-operation”, one where Israel will definitely be the ‘leader’,” Bustani explained to The Star.

In another context, Abul Sukkar suggests the treaty did not safeguard Jordanian territorial rights. “Not mentioning that this treaty had not guaranteed Jordan secure borders, but kept it under threat of an alternative homeland, it also ignored Jordanian land occupied by Israel; Um al-Rishrash was a Jordanian land officially occupied in 1949; it was not returned or liberated and it was totally ignored by the treaty,” Abul Sukkar said.

In this context, Bustani said “the “peace” treaty also destroys Jordanian sovereignty over its own land: al-Ghamr and al-Baquoora, both “liberated” Jordanian territories from Israeli occupation through the treaty, have the following terms in their regard: the land is rented to the Israelis for 25 years renewable by the agreement of both parties, if one party no longer agrees on these terms, the land is not returned to Jordan, but it goes into further negotiations! The Israelis are allowed to go in and out without passport registration or any sort of ID documentation, only the Israelis are allowed to go in these lands with their weapons, the treaty refers to the Israelis as “Land owners”, and so on. In short, the Baquoora and Ghamr are areas under the sovereignty of Israel, and they were not returned.”

Abdullah Hammoudeh pointed out the historical mistake done by singing this treaty as he said to The Star “by this agreement we have gave Israel a legitimate right to its crimes and we approved the Jewish story of Palestine, which had served the Jewish people historically.” Hammoudeh also spoke about the expressions and terms used in the treaty and their danger.

In this context, Bustani said, “On the issue of refugees, the peace treaty defines the refugee problem as “humanitarian”, removing all its political perspective. Also, it refers to it as being a result of the “conflict” in the region, removing the direct responsibility of Israel. The treaty not only fails to mention the right of return of Palestinians to their homes and lands, but it specifically mentions the ‘settlement’ of Palestinians as a goal!”

On the popular level, many attempts were made to improve Israel’s image to the Jordanian people; but Israel is still for most Jordanians and Arabs the worst historical experience and the most state to be described as enemy; the Israeli embassy in Amman is considered taboo while the Israeli ambassador is boycotted, unknown and unwelcome during his stay in Amman.

“People refuse to normalize with Israel. Peace is not a value if it did not represent justice, and justice requires the decolonization of Palestine and the end of the Zionist colonial-settler project in the Arab region,” said Bustani.
Hattar assured to The Star that those 15 years were a waste, and they were not necessary to discover all the mentioned realities. “The treaty needed no experiment; the 15 years have proved that the enemy’s ideology remains unchanged whether we made peace or not; they want Jordan as a passage for normalization with the region,” he said.

With the present deadlock that the region has been thrown into after the realization that Israel is not interested in peace with the Palestinians, a peace built on justice and according to UN resolutions, the question is what can Jordan do to free itself from this unwelcome treaty.

Bustani suggests that “Jordan should go reshape its strategic relations; it should start exploring different global and regional alliances with countries like Russia, China, Syria and Iran; it should explore the huge possibilities with rising Latin American democracies like Venezuela and Brazil; it should free itself from the security obligations towards Israel by annulling the treaty”. “Annulling treaties does not mean war, but it means preserving people’s interests and maintaining a position where things can be changed in a better future setting,” concluded Bustani


Source: The Star, 19-25 October 2009