Saturday, January 18, 2014
The Scoop: Netanyahu, King Abdullah Secret Talks Aim at Neutralizing Kerry
By: Yori Yanover, JP
His Majesty King Abdullah meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Amman on Thursday Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Royal Court Secretary of State
John Kerry’s effusive optimism regarding the peace talks have been a source of concern not only to Netanyahu and the majority of his coalition government, but also to King Abdulla II of Jordan.
The two leaders’ supposedly secret meeting on Thursday in Amman—which was made public almost immediately by the Jordanians—was devoted to one issue: Jordan is very unhappy about the possibility that Israel would take the IDF out of the Jordan Valley.
According to Makor Rishon, the Jordanians don’t care if the plan is to remove the IDF now, or in 10 or even in 50 years. They don’t want Israel out of that stretch of land across the water, period. The official press release after the Amman meeting was basically the usual stuff about the need to establish “a viable and independent Palestinian state within the pre-1967 lines that lives side-by-side with Israel, with East Jerusalem as its capital,” based on “the international resolutions, the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative and the two-state formula.”
Then there was the part about the king “urging all stakeholders to work for a comprehensive and just peace by ensuring the right atmosphere that renders peace talks successful.” The very fact that this urgent, unscheduled meeting had nothing new to say begs the question about what was really said.
The immediate outcome of the two neighboring leaders getting together, a Jordanian source told Makor Rishon, is another devaluation of the chances of Kerry coming up with a comprehensive plan. “If, two weeks ago, there was a fifty-fifty chance that such a document be presented, now that chance is much lower,” the source said. “For now, the Americans believe they’d be able to draft a paper, but they’ve been running into bigger and bigger difficulties. It’s possible that in the end they’ll put nothing on the table, or they’d put down something and say, ‘Take it or leave it.’
Maybe they’ll degrade the document’s contents, to enable both sides to accept it—but that would also mean that whatever achievement they reached over these past months will be lost, and that would also be problematic.”
Israel and Jordan have been maintaining an effective security cooperation along Israel’s eastern border.
When asked in private, the Jordanians are vehemently opposed to having Palestinian forces posted along the river, preferring without hesitation the current arrangement. But, obviously, they can’t say that publicly.
If the security plan of General George Allen is implemented, Jordan would have to change its own security alignment long the river. The plan calls for international, Israeli and Palestinian forces to be posted, and the Jordanians—like anyone who hasn’t drunk Kerry’s Kool Aid—know this will only mean trouble.
Israel has had a generally quiet and prosperous peace with its neighbor to the east, with Israeli factories moving to the Hashemite side, attracted by the cheap labor, and the two countries sticking to their mutual commitments, including Israel’s obligation to provide Jordan with its share of the Kinneret water, rain or shine. Much of that tranquility can be attributed to the fact that both countries’ security communities have developed an atmosphere of trust and cooperation, and so they’ve been able to bock whatever mayhem going on in the PA from spreading east into Jordan.
In yesterday’s meeting, both Netanyahu and Abdullah praised the success of the past 20 years. They reassured each other that the system ain’t broke and needs no fixing, thank you very much.
This would go a long way to lose Kerry friends not just in AIPAC, but in the Democratic Senate and, hopefully, Vice President Biden. Despite everything Biden may be saying publicly in support of his president’s aspirations, he is an old foreign policy hand, with an intimate familiarity with the Middle East. Surely, he knows how volatile Jordan is already, and how much more threatened would the king’s rule should the IDF pull out from his western flank.
It cannot be stressed enough that the king belongs to an endangered minority in Jordan, the 20% or so of Bedouin tribesmen loyal to him. The rest of his citizens are Palestinians who have arrived over the past seven decades. They’re doing well there, and when they don’t, the Legion and the secret police make sure they behave, occasionally massacring them by the tens of thousands.
But permit a direct, daily contact between armed Palestinian forces and the Hashemite Kingdom, and the fireworks would start shortly thereafter. Jordan already is a home to 1.2 million Syrian refugees. Crime is on the rise, employment is down, gun purchases are up. Jordan’s office of the interior said some 120 thousand weapons were sold there last year, and an estimated 1 million unregistered weapons are in circulation. Jordan does not another porous border. This is why King Abdullah insists on being informed about the negotiations, if not on actually being a participant.
He’s also been opposed to the fast pace of Kerry’s team. His former prime minister, Ma’ruf al-Bakhit, working on behalf of the king, has been recommending to the Palestinians to slow things down. He cautioned them that this is the wrong time for a final deal with the Israelis, because the entire Arab league is busy putting out their own fires at home, and would have no resources left to back the Palestinians internationally. Al-Bakhit has also stated that Jordan should be a direct partner in the talks, seeing as it would have to pay a price, no matter the outcome. And Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh has told the Amman press that a royal team has been present in some of the sessions. The Obama team has a chance to add Jordan to the list of pro-western Arab states it and its predecessors have demolished. The fun never stops.
Posted by Ted Belman