On one – very superficial – level I was sorry that the planned showdown between maverick Likud MK Oren Hazan and Jordanian parliamentarian Yahya Mohammad Alsaud, who has a history of punch-throwing, did not take place. We all need a little light relief when times are tense.
Yet, Israel cannot ignore the sensitivity of the site particularly for the Hashemites, struggling to keep their power in a country where the majority of the population is Palestinian and where there has been a huge influx of more than a million refugees from Syria.
[..] Nonetheless, the gap between the two sides today seems wider than it has been for a long time.
[..] On one occasion I accompanied a group of Knesset members that hit an unexpected difficulty. The Jordanians did not want to allow the Israeli security detail to continue carrying weapons. It took several hours for the problem to be resolved. Ultimately, King Hussein issued a statement that he personally guaranteed the Israeli delegation’s safety. The king’s word was good enough to make us feel safe.
That feeling of security, guaranteed by the Hashemite monarch, no longer exists. King Abdullah II, Hussein’s son, cannot take even his own safety for granted.
Journalists covering the Amman embassy incident received a string of advice from Jordanian officials which included hiding their Israeli identity.
I remember the visit by King Hussein to offer condolences in person to the families of the seven Israeli schoolgirls killed by Jordanian soldier Ahmed Daqamseh at the Naharayim “Island of Peace” in 1997. The image of the king kneeling to talk to families sitting on the ground in a traditional custom of mourning was poignant and powerful. Daqamseh was released from prison in March after serving his 20-year sentence and received a hero’s welcome.
IN A Facebook Live video broadcast by Jordanian outlet Jfra News, Alsaud said, “Jordan has dignity and we either live in dignity or we die.”
Never underestimate the destructive potential of placing honor above all. As always, there is a need to find ways to strengthen the moderates: Those who want to live with dignity rather than die – or cause the deaths of others.
It’s hard to take Alsaud seriously, but he is helping create the noxious environment in which decent people are scared to speak out. Officials I met and interviewed at the time of the Jordan peace agreement are no longer willing for their names to appear in the Israeli press.
And that signifies a danger on both sides of the Jordan.
[..] Amid the hype, Hazan’s more important message was lost. Alsaud ranted that “… the shoe of any Arab and Muslim is better than him [Hazan] and his rogue entity, which has no origin and no religion.” Hazan had something else to say, something that should be conveyed in a more serious way: “I wanted to talk to [Alsaud] and explain to him that, at the end of the day, Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan…”
In February, I reported on a talk to the Jerusalem Press Club by Hillel Frisch, a professor of political studies and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA). He discussed what is often referred to as the “Jordanian option” – that instead of fixating on the creation of an independent Palestinian state, it would be better to expand the Palestinian links to the Hashemite Kingdom, with which the Palestinians share a language, religion and culture.
The problem is that I have yet to find a Jordanian, on- or off-record, who supports the idea.
There are increasing pressures by “anti-normalization” groups and Islamists in Jordan, but the monarch, and many of his decent, ordinary citizens, recognize the need to preserve the peace treaty with Israel for the sake of mutual security and prosperity.