The second half of 2019 will bring with it another effort towards Middle East peace, a feat that hasn’t been seriously attempted since 2014, ending with what are now predictable results.
London – Spanning decades prior, the “Peace Process” has come to define an idea of failed Western intervention in the tumult between Israel and its neighbors, and how long-disputed lands and natural resources might be split in a way agreeable for all parties.
The next notable milestone on the timeline will be the so-called “Deal of the Century”; upcoming talks spurred by President Donald Trump, who is eager to put his name on a list of politicians who have endeavored to pull the proverbial sword from the stone.
However, few have considered what the proposed deal means for Jordan. If implemented, Jordan may be disturbed enough by the fact that the fragile fabric of its society, and indeed its monarchy, may collapse. This would inevitably create lasting ripples elsewhere in the region. For the future of the country, Jordanians and other Middle Eastern residents await the deal’s terms with bated breath, and a justified dose of skepticism. According to Dr. Herman Schmidt of the London-based Global Distribution Network, “The Middle East Peace Process is as myopic as it is ineffective, leaders must start viewing the conflict as a broader regional issue. Indeed the implications of any peace agreement will stretch far beyond the borders of the Levant.”
History Draws Natural Guidelines for a Peace Deal
The timeline of Jordan as a sovereign nation is uneven, with the country changing hands several times. Jordan, as it exists now, was formed with the support of the British post-World War II, which allocated the then-territory of Transjordan to King Abdullah I as part of the British Mandate.
At the same time, the area West of the Jordan River was made the State of Israel, while Syria endured its own reformation under the French. These changing borders, and also the wars against Israel in 1948 and 1967, ensured that Jordan’s population of Palestinian refugees grew into the millions.
Though an accurate census hasn’t been taken to confirm, Jordan is overwhelmingly Palestinian, with estimates putting the population at up to 70%. Official numbers from UNRWA state that it’s only 18%, but these figures are skewed and obfuscated by the monarchy’s numbers, which rely on inaccurate census data as a security measure to ensure the country appears, on paper, to be majority Jordanian. Jordanian-Palestinians are purposely denied representation and citizenship – allowing the Kingdom to continue to deny voting rights and a sense of inclusivity in Jordanian society to Palestinians.
Safeguarding the Jordanian Identity
The fragile concept of Jordanian identity will be front of mind for the King of Jordan during Trump’s “Deal of the Century” talks. We know little about what the deal contains, but some of the details that are known indicate social upheaval is a likely result.
Allegedly leaked specifics include economic and structural development for Gaza and the West Bank, and perhaps a division of Jerusalem along ethnic lines, but these are not confirmed. What we do know for certain is that Jordan will again be responsible for administering and absorbing much of the area’s Palestinian residents.
If Jordan is forced to give citizenship to Palestinian refugees and absorb more of them, it will likely push back at the deal. For the King, rapid demographic change threatens to dilute the power of Jordanians, and thus his own monarchy, at the expense of Palestinians.
This is why he and his administration pretend to support a two-state solution while at the same time suppress Palestinian rights and representation.
This idea is economic as much as it is sociological, with Jordan also struggling to maintain its fragile economy amid volatile geopolitical tensions.
A Nation Already Troubled
Looming economic problems for Jordan and their rapid unraveling in the wake of a potential peace deal should not be a primary consideration when negotiations commence, but they’re hard to ignore. Jordan has absorbed 1.3 million Syrian refugees after the crisis on its northern border, which strains an already weak economy. Its debt-to-GDP is an astounding 94.23%—kept afloat by IMF loans, aid from Saudi Arabia and the US, and a slew of very unpopular austerity measures like a higher income tax and the removal of key subsidies.
To avoid financial unrest that may topple his Kingdom, King Abdullah is playing along with the peace process for now but may flip the board if it risks his country’s economy and his grip on power.
Abdullah’s recent crackdown on his people illustrates this notion well and proves Jordan isn’t ready for the type of significant geosocial changes that may take place. Dozens of activists, writers, journalists, and other critics have been detained in 2019, as economic and political stresses increasingly impact the average Jordanian citizen.
Increasingly worrisome attempts at maintaining control give a stark preview of what would happen if the peace process exposes the delicate balance currently maintained. If Jordan is required to absorb more Palestinians or take control of the Palestinian territories, the country will cease to exist in its current form.
The intertwining nature of politics in the Middle East means that an Israeli-Palestinian concord needs to consider its bearing on neighboring countries and whether peace in one place creates disquiet in others.
Few will deny that the “Deal of the Century” will affect Jordanian identity and sovereignty, but measures must be taken to ensure Israeli-Palestinian agreements do not disrupt the already delicate Jordanian-Palestinian status quo.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial views.
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