Peace Partner Jordan Threatens to Expel Israeli Ambassador
By Dale Gavlak May 18, 2021
Jordan's Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh says his country may expel the Israeli ambassador after parliament issued the call due to escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians. King Abdullah II is conducting intense diplomacy to try to stop the dangerous escalation amid concerns, observers suggest, should the crisis prompt another wave of Palestinian refugees into Jordan. In talks with his Jordanian counterpart, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that "both Israelis and Palestinians equally deserve to live in safety and security."
Jordan has a 1994 peace treaty with Israel and for years, it has also been the chief supporter of Palestinian statehood. Public anger in the country, where Palestinian refugees and their descendants make up more than half of its 10 million population, is now boiling over. Large, angry demonstrations here demand an end to forced evictions of Palestinian families in Jerusalem and deadly bombardment in Gaza.
Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, says King Abdullah is correct when he has repeatedly warned that the lack of a just solution to the Palestinian problem "would lead to the explosion of the situation in the region."
"King Abdullah's been saying for 20 years that failure to address the root cause of the Israel-Palestinian, Israeli-Arab conflict will sooner or later result in explosions as we've seen," Riedel said. "The Jordanian position has always been that the world community, and the United States in particular, put pressure on Israel to create a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem to represent the homeland for the Palestinian people."
Jordanian officials have expressed concerns about any spillover of violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories that could lead to another mass migration of Palestinians into Jordan after the 1948 and 1967 refugee waves, although Riedel doesn't necessarily see this happening. What's more worrisome is violence between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs.
"They also do fear refugee flows from Palestine. On the other hand, two previous intifadas in the West Bank in 1988, in 2000 did not produce significant flows of refugees," Riedel said. "It's a concern but not an inevitability by any means. What's particularly dangerous about this situation and largely unprecedented is the we see these mobs and vigilantes on both sides, but especially the Israeli side attacking Israeli Arabs. The social contract between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs is coming apart. That augurs very poorly for the future of Israel."
Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab, writing in a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece, urged Israel and the Palestinians—including Hamas—to talk. "At this point, the idea of deterring conflict has become elusive because of the absence of a serious negotiation process," he said.
"Short of surrender, no conflict in the world can be solved by military means. Any resolution depends on negotiations — and naturally that means talking with your enemies, not your friends," Kuttab said.
With diplomatic efforts so far unable to stop the violence, the top US military officer, Army General Mark Milley, warned that the violence could "risk broader destabilization."
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