Back to the ‘Deal of the Century’?

With the return of Netanyahu and maybe Trump, Jordan’s worst fears are coming true

At a meeting in London last year, Jordan’s King Abdullah told a select group of British journalists that what worried him most was the prospect of Benjamin Netanyahu regaining power as Israeli prime minister and Donald Trump returning to the White House. He explained that the hard-line ideologies and policies espoused by the pair, in a region constantly threatened with war and instability due to the failure to achieve peace, could only cause political and security turmoil, especially for Jordan.

One of the journalists present at the gathering — at a Conservative club in the posh Piccadilly district — said the king feared Netanyahu would effectively end Jordan’s custodianship of the al-Aqsa mosque compound and facilitate its takeover by Jewish extremists, while expelling tens or hundreds of thousands of West Bank Palestinians to Jordan as part of plans to implement the so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ and annex the territory. This would compound Jordan’s political and economic difficulties and subject it to an existential threat.

The first of Abdullah’s fears came true last week when Netanyahu and his hard-line blocwon a majority in the Israeli Knesset with the support of Israel’s most extreme Arab-hating parties. They include the Religious Zionism list co-led by Itamar Ben-Gvir, a disciple of Meir Kahane who resides in the Kiryat Arba settlement near Hebron. He advocates ending Jordan’s custodianship of al-Aqsa, expelling the guards and staff employed by the Jordanian ministry of religious endowments, and turning the compound into a Jewish prayer site as a prelude to demolishing the mosques and building a Temple of Solomon on their ruins.

The second fear — of a comeback by Trump and his Zionist son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner — looks increasingly likely to be realised in a couple of years’ time. Trump has all but confirmed he will make another run for the presidency while campaigning to secure Republican majorities in the House and the Senate at the current mid-term elections.

The ‘Deal of the Century’ was backed by Netanyahu and adopted by Kushner who unveiled it at a special conference in Manama attended by representatives of Arab governments, regrettably including Jordan’s. It could come back to the forefront in the days and months ahead, once a new Israeli government has been formed, given the normalisation measures taken by several Arab regimes and their signing of security and economic agreements with the occupier state. These include the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and to a lesser extent Sudan, in addition to Jordan and Egypt, and — of course — the Palestinian Authority with its ‘security coordination’.

The main thrust of the ‘Deal of the Century’ is to turn Jordan into an alternative homeland for Palestinians after annexing the West Bank and emptying it of most of its inhabitants. The coming few months are an opportune and tempting time to try to put it into practice, given the rest of the world’s preoccupation with Ukraine and the attendant political and economic crises. Netanyahu has good relations with Russia and President Vladimir Putin as well as the deep state in the US.

Jordan needs to prepare to face this threat to its identity, security, and stability from west of the River Jordan — from the occupier state and its extremist government, some of whose members boast of having killed Arabs and place their expulsion of Palestinians at the top of their order of priorities.

Proper preparation for this move — which may get backing from some Arab governments — needs to include a few steps:

First, to fortify the domestic front by bolstering national unity, and rallying government and people together around a national strategy that prioritizes confronting and foiling this conspiracy.

Second, the formation of an emergency government composed of respected patriotic political and tribal leaders of integrity who have popular support from Jordanians of both East Bank and Palestinian origin, and allowing it to exercise real powers.

Third, to support the renascent Palestinian intifada in the occupied West Bank and turn Jordan into a base of support for the resistance there, while treating all Jordanians as a single people and irrespective of origin.

Jordan has many cards it can play in response to Israeli provocations and outrages. It is stronger than many in its ‘deep state’ circles think. They prefer to bow before Israeli storms and pursue a diplomacy of denial on the grounds that Jordan is too weak and economically vulnerable to do otherwise.

Nor is Israel as strong as they think. That was demonstrated in last year’s 11-day missile exchange with the Gaza Strip that cut it off from the outside world and caused a surge in reverse migration. Later, just four Hezbollah drones were sufficient to humiliate it and the US and force them to agree on a maritime border demarcation with Lebanon. Imagine how its settlers would react if a missile or some shells were fired — ‘by error’ — from the East Bank into uninhabited parts of the Naqab Desert as a kind of warning. No need to say more.

Jordan really does have a lot of power. All it needs is the will to use it, or at least threaten to use it, against those trying to attack its sovereignty, security, identity, and the core beliefs of its people.

Back to the ‘Deal of the Century’?

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