Jordan’s alliance with the United States—and its peace with Israel—deliver massive benefits to the Hashemite kingdom, but the strategy of King Abdullah II’s regime toward these “friends” puts both relationships in jeopardy.
Specifically, the king’s hostility toward Israel threatens regional peace, which could also threaten the Hashemites’ hold on power—both of which contradict American interests. Abdullah’s strategy of trying to placate his country’s Palestinian majority by supporting Palestinian terrorism against Israel undermines Jordan’s valuable peace with the Jewish state—and its financial lifeline to the United States.
This pro-Palestinian strategy is futile in any case, since it’s based on a false reality, now 20 years past, that most certainly will fail to achieve the Palestinian state the Hashemite regime is betting on to maintain its power.
Furthermore, Jordan is working against the trend towards Arab-Israeli peace evidenced by the Abraham Accords—a policy that if continued, could lead to political isolation for Jordan.
Thus, it behooves the United States to influence Abdullah to reverse anti-Israel sentiment in Jordan and join the blossoming of Middle East peace through the Abraham Accords.
Likewise, it’s time for Abdullah to inform his people of the huge benefits their peace with Israel delivers.
Indeed, if the king truly wants an independent Palestinian state, he’d also do well to persuade the Palestinians to abandon terrorism, adopt a posture of peace and create the state institutions necessary for independence.
In short, Jordan depends heavily on both the United States. and Israel for material and political support. In fact, Jordan receives more financial aid from the United States than does Egypt, a country with a population 10 times larger than that of the Hashemite kingdom. Starting this year, Jordan will receive $1.45 billion from the U.S. annually.
Yet, Jordan is still a poor country with a weak economy. About one in four Jordanians is unemployed, as are half of young Jordanians. Indeed, Jordanian officials have said that even the annual aid that the U.S. has committed to beginning this year won’t be enough to fulfill the country’s needs.
Imagine how much worse things would be for the country if it did not receive U.S. aid—aid that helps keep the Hashemite regime in power, since Abdullah is none too popular with Jordanians. A poll in 2020, conducted by nonpartisan research network, Arab Barometer, found that just 43.3% of Jordanians had trust in their government.
In fact, the very legitimacy of the Hashemite regime in Jordan has always been questionable. It was the British, not the people of Jordan, who installed the Hashemites in power. Most of Jordan’s population is Palestinian while the Hashemites are not, which means that the country is under minority rule.
King Abdullah has responded to his regime’s lack of popularity by trying to redirect Jordanians’ discontent towards Israel. The Jordanian government has, for example, falsely accused Israel of violating the status quo on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
When Palestinian rioters on the Mount, armed with clubs, fireworks and rocks, attacked Israeli security forces, the Jordanian foreign minister said, “Israel is pushing us into the abyss of violence and undermines the peace treaty with Jordan.”
In reality, however, it is Abdullah’s support of anti-Israel sentiment that threatens his relationship with his benefactors. The United States and Israel cooperate with Jordan on intelligence and security matters. This cooperation has helped the three countries fight their mutual adversaries—adversaries who would love to overthrow Jordan’s Hashemite regime and create a terrorist state on Israel’s doorstep.
Most importantly, Abdullah puts in jeopardy massive material benefits he receives from the United States and Israel. In addition to financial aid and political support—including economic investment—Jordanian exports to the United States exceed $1 billion a year. Israel provides vital natural resources to Jordan, such as water and gas—but Jordan’s strategy of inciting hatred against the Jewish state threatens all of this.
Above all, Abdullah’s rabid pro-Palestinian strategy is fruitless, since he certainly can’t help the Palestinians achieve their impractical, maximalist demands. Clearly, Israel will never agree to allow millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees to “return” to Israel, or consent to a pre-1967-lines Palestinian state with a capital in eastern Jerusalem and control over Jewish holy sites.
Finally, Jordan is also working against the trend towards regional peace exemplified by the Abraham Accords, and by doing so risks being politically isolated. Arab governments have become less enthusiastic about supporting the Palestinian cause, especially after seeing Palestinian leaders squander billions of dollars and every opportunity to achieve peace and statehood.
No surprise that the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco have decided to prioritize their national interests over the Palestinian cause and normalize relations with Israel through the Abraham Accords. Notably, Jordan has not signed on to the Accords. In fact, Jordan opposes any expansion of Arab peace with Israel without resolving the Palestinian issue.
If current trends hold, however, Jordan will be an outlier, while other Arab countries normalize relations with Israel. Indeed, the Hashemite kingdom has already lost substantial leverage with Washington, since it is now one of six Arab countries to have relations with Israel, when before the Abraham Accords it was one of just two Arab states to recognize the Jewish state.
The time has arrived for the United States to put pressure on King Abdullah to do the right thing: Stop inciting hatred against Israel, start persuading Jordanians of the benefits that peace with the Jewish state brings to their country, and join the growing axis of peace and prosperity in the region that has been made possible through the Abraham Accords.
Washington should also pressure Jordan to help the Palestinians achieve independence by supporting their need to promote the values of peace and create the political and financial institutions necessary for self-sufficiency.
While the United States values its alliance and Israel values its peace with Jordan, the kingdom needs America and Israel more than they need it. If King Abdullah and his regime continue to incite hostility against Israel—and refuse to join the Abraham Accords peace train—Israel and its U.S. allies should ratchet back their material support for the Hashemite dictatorship.
Jason Shvili is a contributing editor at Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.