(October 24, 2018 / JNS) Jordan’s King Abdullah announced on Sunday that he initiated and passed a decision not to continue leasing land in the Arava and at Naharayim to Israel—two clauses of the 1994 peace treaty between the two countries. The cancellation was presented by the king himself, and it’s clear the purpose of the move was to dampen the peace accord with Israel.
In response to the decision, Shimon Sheves, director general of the Prime Minister’s Office under then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, said the lease agreement was signed for 25 years in the hope that it would be upgraded upon its expiration, not downgraded. The king’s decision, which was unveiled on the 23rd anniversary of Rabin’s assassination, proves that agreements between states, and particularly concessions on sovereignty, must not be based on hopes that appear realistic at the time of the signing but are susceptible to erosion over time.
In this case, the vagaries of time included, among other things, then-King Hussein appointing his son Abdullah as the new crown prince and heir apparent, replacing his brother, Hassan, who supported the accord. The Arab Spring and the emergence of the Islamic State group in the arena can also be counted. Regarding ISIS, the group’s primary enemy is the Hashemite king, who is considered in the religious hierarchy the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad and therefore precedes the leader of ISIS, who anointed himself caliph, the heir to the prophet.
But with all due respect and understanding to the king’s problems, he assumes that cooperation between Israel and his regime is assured regardless and that he can therefore inflict a modicum of damage to its citizens (in this case, the farmers of the Arava region), without a response from Israel.
The Israeli government now has a choice between trying to appease the king at its own expense and an aggressive response that will preserve the letter of the accord in the driest sense.
Today, Jordan receives from Israel far more than what the accord stipulates. Israel provides these things because it wants to strengthen the relations, which Rabin was so hopeful about and which led him to sign the temporary lease, according to Sheves.
In the field of water, for example, the accord stipulates that Israel must provide Jordan 50 million cubic meters of water a year, while in actuality it provides almost twice that amount yearly. The difference can be drastically reduced if the Sea of Galilee continues to dwindle beyond all the predefined emergency levels. The plunging water level is critical; natural water aquifers could be contaminated. Once they are salinized, it won’t be possible to reverse the process. Salinization of the Sea of Galilee will be a hydrologic catastrophe for us and Jordan alike.
The government has to be proactive and examine the process of supplying more than the agreed-upon amount of water to Jordan in order to avoid this hydrologic disaster. There’s no question that a serious assessment of this sort will quell the king’s enthusiasm about adhering to the strict letter of the accord while abandoning the hopes upon which it was predicated.
According to the current predominant paradigm in Israel, a Hashemite king presiding over a dictatorship is preferable to a representative government. This paradigm or conception rather, motivated Israel in September 1970 to intervene on behalf of the Hashemite rulers and help them stave off a coup attempt by PLO chairman Yasser Arafat. Perhaps the time has come to examine whether this conception endangers us in a changing Middle East.