The Causes and Effects of Foreign Policy Decision Making: An Analysis of Jordanian Peace with Israel

By Cunningham, Karla J. | World Affairs, Spring 1998 | Go to article overview

The Causes and Effects of Foreign Policy Decision Making: An Analysis of Jordanian Peace with Israel


Cunningham, Karla J., World Affairs


In this article, I analyze the interaction between domestic political actors and events and Jordanian regional foreign policy, specifically with respect to the 1994 Jordanian Peace Accord with Israel. Profound economic crisis throughout the 1980s, due to the rentier aspects of the Jordanian economy,(1) precipitated the regime's political response of "managed liberalization" in 1989, which resulted in legalized political parties, a freer press, and lifting martial law.(2) The regime's political response to economic crisis amounted to a survival strategy designed to deflect popular attention not only from domestic economic belt-tightening in the wake of International Monetary Fund (IMF) restructuring, but also from the king, freeing him to pursue a peace agreement with Israel to secure Jordanian economic, political, and regional security. As a result of the 1993 Oslo Accord between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), regional resistance to a Jordanian accord was essentially neutralized, allowing the king to pursue Jordanian national security issues, which were twofold: first, to facilitate the infusion of desperately needed capital. in the form of a "peace dividend"; and second, to ensure Jordanian diplomatic status both regionally and internationally in the wake of the 1993 Oslo Accord.

The managed liberalization of the early 1990s facilitated the king's peace negotiations with Israel because it provided the appearance that domestic security challenges had been managed and productively channeled away from the regime.(3) King Hussein had provided the illusion of substantive revision to the traditional state-societal contract, characterized by a quid pro quo wherein the regime distributed economic benefits in exchange for political quiescence: however, in reality the regime continued to explore avenues to restore the status quo because it had ensured that substantive change had not occurred at the official level. Externally, the Gulf War and the 1993 Oslo Accord highlighted important Jordanian security issues in terms of both territorial integrity and regional centrality. The Hashemite regime entered the peace negotiations with Israel from a position of perceived domestic strength but with an obvious understanding that regional factors were likely to expose it to further domestic challenges if Jordan's centrality to the Arab-Israeli crisis were compromised and if it failed to secure external financial assistance to round out its budget. The regime's desire to lessen both internal and external security threats explains the foreign policy agenda. which was defined by peace and normalization of relations with Israel.

The peace process, in combination with the limited political freedoms enjoyed since 1989, has confronted the king with significant political opposition since 1994. The anticipated peace dividend, in the form of external assistance and debt forgiveness (specifically by the United States) and possible increased foreign investment, has not been forthcoming. Instead, broader participation, combined with the 1994 peace accord, has channeled domestic opposition against the regime and has strengthened the Islamic opposition both in the lower house and within civil societal associations more generally. The result has been the effective freezing of managed liberalization and a top-down normalization process that is increasingly pitting the regime against society, with possibly detrimental implications for regional stability.

THE HISTORIC ROLE OF EXTERNAL ACTORS IN JORDAN

The king's decision to enter the peace accord with Israel must be understood in the larger historical, political, economic, and regional dynamics within which it developed. Historically, Jordan has been vulnerable to the impact of external events and actors at the domestic level, because of its geostrategic proximity to the Arab-Israeli crisis, its small size, and its lack of natural resources, with the last factor contributing significantly to the rentier characteristics of its economy. …

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The Causes and Effects of Foreign Policy Decision Making: An Analysis of Jordanian Peace with Israel
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