While batting back Israel’s complaints over references to anti-Israel boycotts in relation to peacemaking with the Palestinians, US Secretary of State John Kerry has again bumped his head against another piece of Middle East history: The 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty.
In an exchange of messages in the last few days, DEBKAfile’s Middle East sources reveal that King Abdullah II filed a strong protest with Kerry against the failure of the security-political clauses in his framework accord to address issues involving the Hashemite Kingdom’s political future and security. Above all, he castigated the plan for failing to factor in past treaties concluded between Jordan and Israel with US encouragement.
Kerry has responded by ordering a reassessment of the security blueprint drawn by US Gen. Jon Allen, former NATO commander in Afghanistan, with the assistance of a team of 90 US intelligence and security experts working out of Washington and Israel. The security arrangements he proposes in a future Palestinian state for the Jordan Valley, which also marks Jordan’s Western border, would replace Israeli border units with a system of electronic surveillance devices including drones, satellites and other instruments for securing the Jordanian border.
Israel emphatically objects to withdrawing its troops from this strategic valley on its eastern border or evacuating its settlements there, on the grounds that without its own military manpower on the ground, even the most sophisticated instruments of surveillance would not be proof against terrorist incursions to the West Bank and Israel itself.
This danger has become more acute since the jihadst Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) seized territory in western Iraq, especially in consideration of the offshoots these jihadists maintain in the Hashemite Kingdom.
Therefore, Israel was not alone in vehemently ruling out the Allen plan. It is now joined by Jordan. The latter’s objections focus on four points:
1. The proposed electronic surveillance system along its Western border would expose the entire Kingdom of Jordan to US surveillance. The same argument would apply to the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s latest proposal for the deployment of NATO forces.
2. On no account does Amman want to see Palestinian forces of any kind strung along the Jordan River border. This objection was underscored in a series of messages to Washington.
3. Another issue is the US approach to the Jerusalem question, which ignores Jordan’s status with regard to the Holy Places, especially Temple Mount.
The monarch drew Kerry’s attention to the peace treaty signed in 1994 between his father, the late King Hussein and Israeli Prime Minister, the late Yitzhak Rabin, which formally recognized Jordan’s special status on Temple Mount.
In 2013, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas signed an understanding with Amman acknowledging that special status. Since then, the kingdom has covered the payroll of the Palestinian bodies and Waqf authority responsible for the administration and maintenance of Muslim mosques on a site which is sacred to Jews and Christians as well as being the second most important Muslim shrine after Mecca.
King Abdullah is demanding the enshrinement and incorporation of these two documents in all the proposals the US Secretary puts before Israel and the Palestinians.
4. He further emphasizes that any solution of the Palestinian refugee problem – however minimal – must not overlook the large Palestinian refugee community living in Jordan – which has grown to an estimated 2 million, out of the kingdom’s total population of 7 million.
DEBKAfile’s sources disclose that Secretary Kerry tried approaching Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmi to find out whether Defense Minister Gen. Abdul-Fattah El-Sisi could be persuaded to help clear away the obstacles piling up on the path of his Israeli-Palestinian peace effort. The answer from Cairo was negative.