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Eitan Haber
Peace with Jordan invaluable
Op-ed: Israel may pay heavy price one day for taking peace treaty with Hashemite Kingdom for granted
While being showered with ceremonies, books and radio and television shows marking the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, alongside the pain over the loss of more than 2,600 IDF soldiers in the war, we forgot something: This Saturday marks the 19th anniversary of the peace treaty signed between Israel and the Jordanian kingdom. Nineteen years. Not a jubilee, not a round number. Just 19 years. Already 19 years.

 

It's common to assert in our region that peace with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is an obvious thing, and perhaps even almost negligible, unimportant and uninteresting. We, the members of the generation whose eyes opened wide when President Anwar Sadat appeared at the entrance to his Egyptian plane, who got to see Israel's flag waving in Cairo and Egypt's flag in Tel Aviv, why should we get all excited over an agreement with Jordan which came about, almost entirely, naturally?

 

It isn’t so. Not at all. The talks advancing peace with the Hashemite Kingdom were fascinating and partly difficult, and were on the verge of a crisis more than once. There were also quite a few moments of tension and anxiety.

 

Orientalist Prof. Shimon Shamir, who was Israel's first ambassador in Amman, wrote a book recently which fills one's heart with sadness and pain over a missed opportunity ("The Rise and Decline of the Warm Peace with Jordan," published by Hakibbutz Hameuchad). The author called the peace with Jordan "warm peace," as opposed to the "cold peace" commonly used to describe the other peace in our region.

 

Were we wrong? And where?

 

Overall, neither the Jordanians nor we, the Israelis, were wrong. Peace with Jordan is a top interest, both for us and for the Jordanians.

 

Jordan is not Palestine

The mistake is that we failed to understand that 60%-70% of Jordan's residents are Palestinians, and every greengrocer from Tubas, in the Nablus district, has a relative who sells ceramics in Abdoun, or in the Seventh Circle in Amman, or in the refugee camp in Zarqa.

 

We have probably forgotten, or conveniently forgotten, that not only "all Jews are responsible for one another," and we didn't delve deeply into these tribal and personal relations. It turned out that any humiliation of a Palestinian in a Hebron roadblock humiliates those sitting in the small cafés of the al-Awda camp as well. The Palestinians in Jordan treat us Israelis almost just like their brothers in Nablus and Gaza and Hebron.

 

Despite all of this, the peace was Jordan was indeed warm and promising, as Prof. Shamir describes in his book. As a person who has toured Amman, Aqaba and Petra quite a lot, I can bear witness to postcards with the picture of late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin sold in stands, dozens of senior Jordanian officers visiting the defense industries and IDF, and IDF officers' visits to the Jordanian army, dozens of commercial deals worth millions of dollars, developed ties and endless cooperation.

 

We loved this peace, probably much more than our Jordanian neighbors. The first expression of this love was shown in the peace ceremony in the Arava. We agreed with the Jordanians in advance that there would be 1,200 guests, 600 from each country. The Jordanians invited 600 people to the ceremony. We brought along 6,000.

 

The strategic importance of peace with Jordan is invaluable. Both sides are upholding its terms respectfully, and we owe a big thank you to the king, to his associates and to Jordan's citizens. Without them we would have already seen the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Qalqilya, five minutes from Kfar Saba. But 19 years later, we are taking this important agreement for granted, and the current government is treating Jordan, so it seems, as it if it's in its pocket. That's a mistake I really hope we won't pay a heavy price for one day.

 

Another foolish mistake, not to say idiotic, is the claim that Israeli politicians often voice in public, that "Jordan is Palestine." Every such statement, even from unimportant people who think they are important, brings closer the reconstruction of the dangerous "eastern front," which was erased – thank God – once the peace agreement with Jordan was signed.

 

 

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