Jordan: The Death of Normalization with Israel

By Lucas, Russell E. | The Middle East Journal, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

Jordan: The Death of Normalization with Israel


Lucas, Russell E., The Middle East Journal


Many would count Jordanian-Israeli normalization among the victims of the new intifada. Three factors, however, had brought about the death of normalization in Jordan well before October 2000: Israeli intransigence, a regime crackdown on the opposition, and the failure of economic benefits to buy popular support. King Abdullah has inherited a situation where he has turned towards the US rather than Israel as his major foreign policy partner.

Many would count Jordanian - Israeli normalization among the victims of the new intifada. Leaders of both Jordan and Israel expressed intentions for a warm peace between the two countries when signing the 1994 peace treaty. They hoped that "normalization" would bring a new Middle Eastern order. In Jordan, the government actively sought a change in its citizens' attitude and behavior towards Israel.1 One could find early indications that normalization was taking hold in the minds of many Jordanians. Today, however, hopes of normalization appear to be dead.

This article argues, however, that the new intifada has only buried an already dead process of normalization in the opinion of Jordanians. Three factors conspired to produce the death of normalization. Israel acted to undermine the confidence of Jordanians in the prospects for regional peace. The Jordanian regime reversed political liberalization to combat the institutionalization of an anti-normalization opposition. Promised economic benefits of peace also proved to be a mirage. This article expands on earlier discussions of the normalization debate in Jordan.2 The death of normalization, however, did not just occur due to a competition of interpretative frames, but from domestic and external events beyond the control of the regime or the opposition. Thus, King 'Abdullah II inherited a situation where he could turn from a Jordanian - Israeli "alliance" towards a focus on ties with the US. All of this occurred long before the eruption of the second intifada.

NORMALIZATION?

Normalization (tatbi') in the Jordanian context means much more than recognizing the existence of the State of Israel. For the Jordanian regime, normalization would mean a "warm peace" with Israel - in contrast to Egypt's "cold peace." The 1994 peace treaty would not only bring to the surface long standing tacit cooperation between Israel and Jordan, it would be a stepping-stone to a new regional order.3 In this new era, Jordan's borders would be secured, its economy enriched, and the monarchy's rule secured.

Jordan joined the Middle East peace process in the 1991 Madrid Conference in order to escape its post-Gulf War isolation. With the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993 between the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) and Israel in September 1993, the Jordanian government felt it could sign a separate peace agreement with Israel without violating the Arab consensus. Jordan and Israel signed an agenda for peace talks in Washington on the day following the signing of the Oslo agreements.

By July 1994, negotiations with Israel had reached the point where the two sides were willing to end formally the state of war between the two countries. King Husayn and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin made the "Washington Declaration" on July 24 in the presence of US President Clinton. Negotiators quickly resolved issues of borders, water, and economic cooperation through the months of August and September. The treaty was completed by the middle of October 1994. It was signed on October 26, 1994 in a ceremony at the Wadi Araba border point with great international fanfare. The Jordanian parliament ratified the treaty on November 6. Opposition forces in the parliament were unable to block or even delay the treaty's ratification.

Jordan sought to capitalize on its peace with Israel both strategically and economically. King Husayn intended peace with Israel to end Jordan's estrangement from the United States resulting from Jordan's stance during the 1990-1991 Gulf War.

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