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In Jordan, Escalation in Anti-Israel Rhetoric, Threats

In recent weeks, Jordanian officials, including Jordan's King 'Abdallah II, have stepped up their statements against Israel, to the point of threatening military aggression against it. This escalation was in response to statements by Israeli officials describing Jordan as the Palestinian homeland.[1] Also contributing to the tension were WikiLeaks documents published in September, which revealed that Jordan had talked with the U.S. about settling Palestinian refugees on its soil and had inquired about reparations that it had been promised.[2] It should be noted that the notion of Jordan as the "alternative" Palestinian homeland is a highly sensitive issue in the kingdom, and a great source of concern for the Hashemite regime that represents a minority in the country.

9073In response to the Israeli statements, the Jordanian king hurried to harshly attack Israel and the "alternative homeland" idea, clarifying that "Jordan will not be anyone's alternative homeland" because "Jordan is Jordan and Palestine is Palestine." He added that the kingdom would not hesitate to use its army to prevent the implementation of this notion.[3] Jordan's former information minister, Saleh Al-Qallab, currently a member of its Assembly of Senators (the upper house of parliament), spoke in a similar vein in an interview on Jordanian TV, saying that Jordan would fight Israel if the latter tried to implement the "alternative homeland" idea.[4] The escalation was also manifest in scathingly anti-Israeli articles published in the Jordanian media, which likewise discussed the option of a military confrontation and of revoking the peace agreement with Israel, with some even asserting that Israel's existence was temporary.

Jordan's sharp reaction to the "alternative homeland" idea seems to stem partly from the current instability in the kingdom, as a result of the tension between the regime and the various movements – including the Muslim Brotherhood and the popular protest movements – that have been demonstrating in demand of reforms. The Jordanian regime fears that the wave of uprisings sweeping across the Arab world will reach Jordan as well. Clearly, in this sensitive period, a delicate issue like the "alternative homeland" idea can become explosive.

The deterioration of Israel-Jordan relations can also be seen as a direct extension of the decline in Israel's relations with Turkey and Egypt. Indeed, the raid on the Israeli embassy in Cairo was widely celebrated in Jordan, and some predicted it would herald a decline in the relations between Israel and Jordan.[5]

It should be noted that, over the past months, the Jordanian media, especially the daily Al-Dustour, have been posting articles lambasting Israel, which claimed, for example, that "the conflict with Israel is existential rather than territorial," that "the Zionist enterprise has a genocidal character and threatens the entire [Arab] nation,"[6] and that "the gangs of the occupation... are Judaizing Jerusalem in order to turn it into a Jewish ghetto like the Warsaw ghetto."[7] Articles described the Israelis as "killers of the prophets" and "the new Nazis,"[8] and called to reexamine the option of a military confrontation with Israel.[9] It should be noted, however, the majority of these articles appeared in Al-Dustour and did not reflect the general tone of the Jordanian media.

I. Threats of Military Confrontation with Israel

As mentioned, talk about Jordan as the "alternative Palestinian homeland" prompted the king to threaten military action, and the military option was also discussed in the press.

King 'Abdallah II: Jordan and the Palestinians Are Stronger than Israel

In a September 11 meeting with intellectuals and academics, King 'Abdallah said: "The alternative homeland exists only in the minds of the faint-hearted. The so-called 'Jordanian option' has no place in the Jordanians' lexicon. [All] the talk about this issue is a political delusion and an impossible fantasy. Jordan is Jordan, and Palestine is Palestine... We support the Palestinians' right to establish a Palestinian state. We have never changed our political [stance], nor will we change it [in the future], and the matter of an alternative homeland must not even be part of the discussion... We must not discuss this issue very year... Today, Jordan and the future [state of] Palestine are stronger than Israel, and today it is the Israeli who is afraid...

"I want to reassure everyone that I did not hear from any American official – not Clinton, not Bush, and not Obama – nor from anyone else, any [statements] pressuring Jordan to resolve the Palestinian issue at Jordan's expense. I want to reassure everyone that Jordan will not be anyone's alternative homeland. Would it make sense for Jordan to be turned into someone's alternative homeland while we sit here without lifting a finger? We have an army, and we are prepared to fight for our homeland and for Jordan's future. We must speak forcefully, and we will not allow anyone among us to even harbor this notion... Jordan will defend its rights and its vision of a permanent status arrangement that will assure the establishment of an independent, viable Palestinian state on the Palestinian national land, with Jerusalem as its capital, and a just implementation of the right of return and reparations."[10]

Jordanian Official: We Will Fight Israel and Defeat It

Exceptionally harsh statements came from Jordanian Senate Member and former information minister Saleh Al-Qallab, usually moderate in his views. Al-Qallab, who not long ago stated that the Israel-Jordan peace agreement had "thousands of positive aspects" and should not be rescinded under public pressure,[11] now said in a TV interview that, if Israel tried to set up an alternative homeland for the Palestinian refugees in Jordan, the kingdom would fight and defeat it: "I swear by Allah that we will fight Israel like nobody has ever fought it before. The Jordanians will give the Israelis a fight the likes of which they have never seen... and fight with [all their] might if the latter [even] think about an alternative homeland... The Jordanian people will bury the Israeli enterprises and plans."[12]

In an article in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Al-Qallab urged Israel to change its way of thinking and to realize that many changes had recently occurred in the Middle East and the global arena, including the Arab uprisings and the downfall of Arab regimes, the emergence of Turkey as a Middle East power, and the decline of the U.S. as the world's sole superpower. He warned Israel against ignoring these changes: "A future blacker than black awaits Israel if it fails to comprehend all these facts and does not approach the peace process realistically... If [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu wants to spare the Israelis disasters [like the ones they have known throughout] their long history, he must heed the events and the circumstances of the new era in the region, and recognize a Palestinian state on the June 4, 1967 borders, including east Jerusalem."[13]

Al-Dustour Article: Israel Will Orchestrate a Large-Scale Military Confrontation

Maher Abu Tir, a regular columnist in the daily Al-Dustour, published a scathingly anti-Israel article titled "Is Jordan Expecting a War with Israel?" In it, he claimed that Jordan had information that Israel was planning to ratchet up military tension between the two countries, and that the current strained relations stemmed from "Israeli threats that had reached Jordan by various channels."

Abu Tir rejected the possibility that King 'Abdallah's "unprecedented threats" to use military force against Israel were meant for domestic consumption alone, saying: "No leader in the world threatens to [employ] the armed forces unless his intention is to [launch] a military operation." Abu Tir concluded: "The information in Jordan's possession indicates that Israel is planning to impose a certain scenario upon it, for instance by fabricating an incident on the border that will lead to a military response and will widen the arena of [confrontation], so as to redraw the situation under the cover of smoke and fire...  The Jordanians feel that Israel is trying to impose a [new] situation on Jordan by force of arms, and that the decision makers in Tel Aviv have decided that the time has come to play the Jordanian card! If a war breaks out, God forbid, it will not only shake up the region, it will [completely] redraw [the map of] the region."[14]

Al-Dustour Article: Very High Chance of Regional Conflict Involving Israel

Al-Dustour columnist Khalil Qandil also published an article anticipating an imminent military confrontation with Israel. He wrote that there was a "very high chance" of a war between Israel and the Arab world, which would be "destructive" and "create new facts in the region." He explained that Egypt was likely to reconsider the option of war, noting that its prime minister had recently said that the Camp David Accords were not sacred, and also in view of the attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo. As for Syria, Qandil stated that "Assad's regime is in a tight spot... and its only way out is through a military escapade vis-à-vis Israel in collaboration with Hizbullah and Iran." He added that, in light of the provocative Israeli statements about the "alternative homeland," "Jordan's government has started to seriously consider the challenges it may have to face..." He concluded, "If we add to all this the Arab Spring revolution that is raging in most of the Arab countries, nothing can prevent the outbreak of war..."[15]

Zaki Bani Irshid, head of the political bureau of the Islamic Action Front (the political party of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood), called to rescind the peace agreement with Israel and turn to the military option, to which end Jordan must arm its military and continue training and preparations for a confrontation.[16]

II. Threats to Rescind Jordan's Peace Agreement with Israel

An article by the editor of the government daily Al-Rai, and other articles in the Jordanian press, threatened that, if Israel continued its current policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians and its provocations vis-à-vis Jordan, this could jeopardize diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Editor of Government Daily Al-Rai: The Relations with Israel Have Become a Burden

In a September 24 article, the editor of the government daily Al-Rai, Samih Al-Ma'aita, implied that Israel's peace agreements with the Arab countries could be in danger: "King ['Abdallah's] diplomatic activity [during his September visit to the U.S.] conveyed a message, [namely] that the official relations with Israel have become a burden to the countries that maintain them. These relations are accompanied by popular pressure [to sever them], and the continued maintenance of any relations with Israel is of questionable [value], considering [Israel's] current policy. These relations benefit nobody. Questions [about them] arise even in circles that believe in the option of peace and negotiations...

"Relations between countries are based on interests, not on love or hate. People perceive Israel as an enemy and an oppressor. In order to find its place in the region and convince the Arab peoples it is a peace-loving [country], it must pay the cost of these relations by granting the Palestinian people its rights. [Israel] is not a sister country [whose behavior] we should look for [ways] to excuse; it is an occupying entity, and the reasons for rejecting it will vanish only after it heeds the Arab rights.

"The message to the Israeli side is clear: the condition for continued relations with it – on the official or popular level, throughout the Arab arena – is the realization of the Arab interest... If Israel continues to turn its back on the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people, chiefly [the right to] establish an independent state on Palestinian soil, if it continues to drag its feet and bury its head in the sand, and to provoke Jordan through media and diplomatic [channels], then everyone – those who believe in negotiations and those who do not – will say that the relations [with it] are of no use to anyone.

"Israel must understand that what it is doing today will cause it to lose all its diplomatic gains, [including] the agreements and treaties with Egypt, Jordan and even with the PLO... The countries that maintain official ties with it do not need to suffer the pressure of their peoples. Israel is the one who should pay the price by heeding the Arab and Palestinian rights. The important message that Jordan and the international community have for Israel is that the current situation cannot continue..."[17]

Similar statements also appeared in an Al-Dustour editorial: "The Arab peoples no longer agree to maintain relations with an enemy that refuses to accept the conditions for comprehensive peace and refuses to commit to implementing international resolutions."[18]

Article in Al-Dustour: Arab Countries, PA Must Rescind Agreements with Israel

Regular Al-Dustour columnist Rashid Hassan called Israel "an exact replica of its Nazi counterpart," and added: "The hissing of the snakes in their holes in the [Israeli] settlements should not scare us. On the contrary, it [only] confirms that the usurping enemy is in a tight spot. This obligates the sister [Arab] states and the Palestinian Authority to uphold the legitimate and historical rights of the Palestinian people and to freeze all agreements and treaties with the enemy, to stop the normalization, and to renew the Arab boycott, as the only way to quarantine this plague [called Israel]..."[19]

III. Claims about Israel's "Temporary Nature" and Imminent Demise

In addition to talk about reviving the military option and severing diplomatic ties with Israel, articles in the Jordanian press also spoke of Israel's "temporary existence" and its disappearance from the world, which they said was inevitable.

Editor of Government Daily Al-Rai: Israel – A Transient Entity

Al-Rai editor Samih Al-Ma'aita harshly criticized the Israeli statements about Jordan as an alternative Palestinian homeland, and added: "The poison in the Israeli press reveals the great truth, namely that this temporary entity [Israel] is founded upon fear and worries, and it will never be able to live in security, even if it possesses all the weapons in the world and signs peace agreements with all the Arabs, because the problem lies in its structure and in the dogmatic psychological infrastructure of Zionism...

"This temporary entity must know that it lacks security and that it is a transient and impermanent entity that has no chance of lasting forever, because it is founded upon aggression. It will not be able to lead a natural existence even if all the Arabs and Muslims come to the negotiation table and [sign] treaties with it, because the flaw lies in its structure and positions and in the way it handles its relations with the world. It is a temporary entity whose arrogance will kill it. The reasons and factors that will lead to its demise are inherent to its structure. As for the Jordanians and the Palestinians – they are the legitimate and genuine alternative [to Israel] on the soil of Palestine. Israel is the motherland of the Palestinian people, because it is a temporary situation and impermanent entity. Yes, there will be a Palestinian state soon, but it will not be on Jordanian soil. It will be on Palestinian soil, and it will replace the temporary entity."[20]

Al-Dustour Editor: Israel – A Cancerous Growth that Must Be Eradicated

Al-Dustour editor Muhammad Hassan Al-Tal penned a scathing response to a September 17, 2011 article by Dr. Haim Misgav, titled "Jordan Is the Palestine State," which appeared on the Israeli news website Ynet.[21] Al-Til wrote that the Jordanian king had recently become the spearhead in the struggle against Israel. This country, he added, understands that the king's harsh criticism against it will have an immense impact on the international community, and that is why it is attacking Jordan. He stated further: "We, like all Arabs and Muslims, regard the Zionist entity as a cancerous growth in the heart of the nation that must be eradicated from the root, even if a large part of the world has long been supporting [the Zionist entity]. This support has started to ebb as a result of Israel's stubbornness and extremism, which have become boundless.

"If Israel's leaders and thinkers see Jordan as a motley collection of tribes and refugees, we see them as a gang of highway robbers and murderers who came here as part of a global conspiracy and founded an entity that has dedicated itself to murder, robbery, and [usurping] the rights of others...

"What spilled from the pen of the Zionist Misgav reflects the real [nature] of the Jewish mind, which does not recognize others and conducts dialogue with them only through murder and betrayal. All the claims [of the Jews] – that they are peace-loving and want to live in security – are nothing but a big lie and deception, which has now been exposed for all the world to see. Israel has become a real threat to global peace because it is toying with the security of the region, which is of strategic importance to the entire world. If the lunacy of its leaders continues as is, the whole world will bear the responsibility for remaining silent in the face of this lunacy..."[22]

Article on Muslim Brotherhood-Affiliated Website: We Will Wipe Israel Off the Map

Salem Al-Khatib, who writes on the website Albosala.net, affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, addressed US President Barack Obama in an article titled 'Yes, Mr. President, We Will Wipe Israel Off the Map." He wrote: "[We will wipe Israel] off the map that we have never recognized and will never recognize, the map drawn by your forefathers... Yes, we raise our children [to believe] that this ugly entity [Israel], which you have planted in our midst like a cancerous growth and which is killing and robbing in your name, is certain to perish...

"O Mr. President, the Arab nations have revolted against oppression and tyranny, and have removed those who were its emblems. This project still continues, and will not stop here or there until it uproots all the errors that have been imposed upon the nation – and the greatest of these errors is the one you planted in our midst, Israel, the state of hideousness...

"The balance of power in the region has already changed in favor of the oppressed peoples, and the coming days will bring many surprises. [America,] a country of oppression founded by exterminating the indigenous people [there], one which supports the tyrannical regimes and defends [Israel] – which stole the homeland of others... – will undoubtedly cease to exist... The annihilation of this country is impending, and the agents of its destruction can be seen on the horizon. You must study history well and [understand] how civilizations collapse. O Mr. President, yes, we will wipe Israel off the map, and, along with it, we will erase the regimes of oppression and tyranny and all those who stand by their side. Tomorrow draws near."[23]

 *H. Varulkar is a research fellow at MEMRI.

SOURCE: MEMRI

Endnotes:

[1] Major General (res.) Uzi Dayan said on September 11, 2011, that Jordan should be the Palestinian homeland. Haaretz.co.il, September 15, 2011. Similar statements were made by Knesset Member Aryeh Eldad on numerous occasions and by Dr. Haim Misgav in a September 17 article on the Israeli news website Ynet. Ynet.co.il, September 17, 2011; Inn.co.il, September 12, 2011; Haaretz.co.il, August 14, 2011.

[2] Albosala.com, September 11, 2011.

[3] Israeli officials said in response that the king's statement stemmed from the instability in Jordan and that Jordan was "hanging by a thread." The king replied angrily that Israel's leaders were "sticking their head in the sand and pretending that there's not a problem" in terms of the Palestinian issue. Wall Street Journal (U.S.), September 21, 2011; Ynetnews.com, September 14, 2011.

[4] Assabeel.net, September 24, 2011.

[5] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis Series Report No. 737, "Jordan-Israel Relations Following the Takeover of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo," September 14, 2011, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/247/0/5643.htm.

[6] Al-Dustour (Jordan), June 5, 2011.

[7] Al-Dustour (Jordan), June 19, 2011.

[8] Al-Dustour (Jordan), June 29, 2011.

[9] Al-Dustour (Jordan), June 23, 2011.

[10] Al-Rai (Jordan), September 11, 2011.

[11] Al-Rai (Jordan), September 11, 2011.

[12] Assabeel.net, September 24, 2011.

[13] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 29, 2011.

[14] Al-Dustour (Jordan), September 24, 2011. Abu Tir also enumerated the reasons for the deterioration in Jordan-Israel relations, as he saw them: Israel is working to sabotage Jordan's nuclear program and is trying to present this country as unstable, though Israel itself is responsible for the January 2010 attack on its ambassador in Amman and for the August 2010 rocket attack on Aqaba; Jordan discovered that Israel had successfully incited the U.S. and other countries to reduce their financial aid for Jordan; King 'Abdallah refused several requests by Netanyahu to meet with him in secret, which exacerbated the conflict between the two countries; and Israel has complained that Jordan is withholding information from it.

[15] Al-Dustour (Jordan), September 27, 2011.

[16] Elaph.com, September 15, 2011.

[17] Al-Rai (Jordan), September 24, 2011.

[18] Al-Dustour (Jordan), September 25, 2011.

[19] Al-Dustour (Jordan), September 27, 2011.

[20] Al-Rai (Jordan), September 21, 2011.

[21] Misgav wrote that it would be a fallacy to found a second Palestinian state, to the west of the Jordan river, and called Jordan a "puppet state" that is not populated by a Jordanian people but by "a motley collection of tribes from all over the desert, admixed with so-called Palestinian refugees." Ynet.co.il, September 17, 2011.

[22] Al-Dustour (Jordan), September 22, 2011.

[23] Albosala.com, September 22, 2011.

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