Jordan Plays Hard Ball With Soft Shoes

An interview  in the Wall Steet Journal of April 6 with Jordan’s  King Abdullah II, revealed him flexing his muscles and decrying Israeli intransigence over the breakdown of the peace process.

It was a nice little piece of political theater.  He of course knows much better.

The King is well aware of the nature of the Palestinian leadership and its abject failures over the course of 50 years to secure any substantial benefits for its people.  He knows that the true reason there has been no progress in the peace process is not because of Israeli intransigence, but because of a  Palestinian reversion to terrorism.

After all, nearly 70% of his own population is of Palestinian extraction and his own kingship is what we would call in the West, a minority government.

He is also aware that his grandfather, the first Abdullah, was assassinated by a Palestinian nationalist and that attempts on his father’s life occurred so frequently that bullet proof glass was needed to be installed in every bathroom in the King’s residences.

In other words,  this King is on shaky ground and he knows it.   He also knows that one of the things that vouchsafes his regime is the presence , not of his dear friends among the surrounding Arab countries (who would pick Jordan clean should the Hashemites fall) but the support and proximity of the Israeli army.  Israel will not let the Hashemite kingdom collapse.

Yet in true Arab fashion, the King chose to unload his venom in this interview on Israel, accusing it of deliberately delaying any movement toward peace.

There are several other glaring inaccuracies in his interview:

“The extremists around are saying, hey look, nothing is happening, dialogue does not work, communicating with the Israelis is not the way to go forward, the idea of resistance, the spread of fear and hatred is the message they put forward, is the way to go….”

Extremist elements in Gaza and the territories are opposed to Israel’ s very existence and the thought of an accommodation is anathema to them.   For Hamas and the PA’s own al Aqsa Maryr’s Brigades,  nothing could spur greater violence than  the idea of a final settlement. Last year Fatah re-endorsed the notion of armed struggle against the Jewish state.

“If there are those that are saying that Iran is playing mischief, then I say it is being allowed to play mischief. The platform they use is the injustice of the Palestinians and Jerusalem…..”

No, they don’t .  Iran’s problem, like Hamas’, Hezbollah’s and other Palestinian groups, is with Israel’s existence.  If they use the ” injustices” meted out to the Palestinians  as a means of discussing their grievances, then it is only as a pretext.  Once again Abdullah knows this, but like the rest of the leadership in the Arab world,  finds falling back on reliable old complaints a more comfortable political posture.

“I  think the long-term future of Israel is in jeopardy unless we solve our problems. Fifty-seven countries in the world, a third of the United Nations, do not recognize Israel. In a way, I think North Korea has better international relations than Israel. So when you look at the Arab-Islamic peace proposal what you are talking about is 57 nations reaching out to Israel for a long-term future.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. There  are not ” 57 countries”  who don’t recognize  Israel.  There are 30 – and they  are all either Muslim or Communist in nature.  There is absolutely no evidence that should Israel  remove its settlements entirely from the West Bank and retreat from East Jerusalem that there would suddenly be an outpouring of love from these same countries.  In fact, quite the reverse is likely to occur.  The Israeli  willingness to give up territory has always been regarded by the Arab world as a sign of weakness and an incentive for further attacks and demonization.  Hence the escalation of rocket attacks on Israel’s southern border in the wake of the removal of its settlements and  military presence in Gaza.

And unfortunately, for the first time since my father made peace with Israel, our relationship with Israel is at an all bottom low. It hasn’t been as bad as it is today and as tense as it is today.”

If that is true, it is not because of anything Israel has or has not done.   Because the reality is that Jordan has always feathered its nest by propitiating its stronger Arab neighbors, while continuing to maintain secret discussions with the Jewish state.  Abdullah’s father Hussein was a master at this kind of balancing act.  It served him well and facilitated his survival for nearly 50 years on Jordan’s throne.   We are yet  to see whether his  son has that same kind of aptitude.

Whatever King Abdullah II of Jordan really believes, we are unlikely to see any of it appear in print, particularly in a Wall Street Journal interview.  The realities of Arab diplomacy in the Middle East are rarely played out in the press and attitudes that are stated so forthrightly and adamantly in public can actually be very different from the ones expressed behind the closed doors.

With any fall out from an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel almost certain to have devastating consequences for neighboring Jordan, you can bet  that Abdullah and other moderate Arab leaders like him, will continue to find every conceivable excuse to blame Israel while at the same time scurrying for cover behind Israel’s deterrent nuclear shield.

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