JORDAN’S ANTI-ISRAEL RHETORIC ON THE RISE

Protesters hold up pictures of Jordanian King Abdullah and pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh

Protesters hold up pictures of Jordanian King Abdullah and pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh with national flags. (photo credit:REUTERS)

As Israel marks the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, during which it fought Jordan as well as other Arab states, it shows how much has changed in the two countries relationship. Since 1994, the two countries have had an official peace treaty and over the years security cooperation has deepened.

The ties between the Israeli and Jordanian armies are close, and they share an interest in preventing unrest in the West Bank, which Israel has controlled since 1967. Jordan is also the custodian of the holy places in Jerusalem, meaning Jordan is responsible for the Waqf, the Muslim holy trust that administers the Al-Aqsa mosque, and which has often been a flashpoint for tensions between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians.
Israeli intelligence officials say that the security cooperation and intelligence sharing between Jordan and Israel is stronger than ever. They count this cooperation as one of the strongest weapons in Israel’s arsenal and say it is crucial for both countries stability.

At the same time, popular sentiment against cooperation with Israel is rising. Last month, a delegation of sheikhs from various tribes in Jordan visited Israel, where they met with President Reuven Rivlin, whose father was one of the first to translate the Muslim holy book the Qur’an from Arabic into Hebrew, and was an Islamic scholar.

The sheikhs spent five days touring Israel and meeting various religious figures. When they returned there was an outcry against them and their visit to Israel in both the press and on social media. That anger was intensified after two incidents – the first when Israeli troops shot and killed a Jordanian-Palestinian attacker after he stabbed an Israeli policeman, and the second incident in September when Israeli troops shot a Jordanian tourist who tried to carry out a knife attack.

“There is a clear increase in anger and support for anti-normalization,” Mohammed Husainy, the director of the Identity Center in Jordan told The Media Line. Anti-normalization means opposition to cooperation with Israel in any field. It is part of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement that calls for a boycott of both the Israeli government and private Israelis. For example, BDS has tried to prevent pop starts from giving concerts anywhere in Israel, not only in the West Bank.

When Israel and Jordan signed the peace treaty in 1994, Israeli tourists began to flock to Jordan, especially to Petra, one of the wonders of the world. Jordanians began to come to Israel, although mostly to visit relatives in the West Bank or to pray in al-Aqsa.

Some Israeli analysts say that King Abdullah allows the anti-Israel rhetoric as a way for Jordanians to blow off steam.

“The Jordanian regime maneuvers between its need to cooperate with Israel and to address the sentiment of the population,” Eyal Zisser, a professor at Tel Aviv University told The Media Line. “They do allow anti-Israel rhetoric in the media and at the popular level whenever there is a small incident.”

The situation is similar to that of Egypt, the other country with which Israel has a formal peace treaty. Although security cooperation is close, most Egyptians are vehemently anti-Israel. Egypt, Jordan and Israel have similar security concerns and all want to eliminate the terror threat from Islamic State, which has also killed dozens of Egyptian police in the Sinai. All three countries see a nuclear Iran as a potential threat.

Most analysts say that in the long run, the common security interests will continue to overshadow the public anger at Israel.

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