On July 25, 1994, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and King Hussein of Jordan, in
the presence of US President Bill Clinton, signed the Washington Declaration,
formally ending the 46-year-old state of war between Israel and her eastern
Although the declaration marked the first public meeting
between the two leaders, bilateral talks had begun almost three years earlier,
emanating from the Madrid Conference of 1991. In fact, quasi-normal relations
had begun as early as the 1970s.
These clandestine relations were
unbeknown to the Jordanian public, although informed Israelis had heard of
meetings between leaders. For the Israelis, this preparedness, combined with the
thought of peace without having to concede land, awarded both public and
political approval for a solution to be found between the two
The Jordanians, however, were kept in the dark. While the
nation cheered for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War, its king
was protecting Israel through its eastern frontier with Iraq.
It was the
Madrid Conference and the possibility of peace with the Palestinians that
allowed Jordan to come out of its princely closet. However, the Hashemite
Kingdom did not wish to move ahead with talks with the Israelis before the
Palestinians, seeking not to antagonize their large Palestinian population. Thus
they baited their time with their own talks, seeing themselves instead as ideal
mediators, even forming a joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation to represent
Palestinians at the Oslo Accords (at Israel’s request.)
As Jordan’s king
proclaimed at the 14 September 1993 ceremony: “In fact, we had a
Jordanian-Israeli agenda worked out but we held back until the Palestinians
By that time King Hussein had already laid the foundations, both publicly and politically, for a peace agreement with Israel, and waited for
the onslaught of the peace process with the Palestinians before formally
announcing the declaration on the lawns of the White House.
itself committed Jordan and Israel to aim at the “achievement of a just, lasting
and comprehensive peace between Arab states and the Palestinians, with Israel.”
It also mandated a number of practical steps such as the establishment of direct
telephone links between Jordan and Israel, the opening of two new border
crossings between the two countries, linking of the Jordanian and Israeli power
grids and police cooperation in combating crime. More controversially, the
document also safeguarded Jordanian control over the Muslim Holy Sites of
It promised that Israel would give “high priority” to the Jordanian
historic role in these shrines. According to PLO officials, Yasser Arafat was
infuriated by the declaration, viewing it as a step towards restoring Jordanian
authority to the whole West Bank. For the Palestinians, the Jordanian claim to
Jerusalem undermined Palestinians claims of sovereignty over the holy
The words of the resolution on Jerusalem did not only have
religious and political consequences, but also made dramatic – and recent -
changes to the city itself.
In 2006, the Hashemite Kingdom announced plans to
construct a fifth minaret on the eastern wall of the Temple Mount. It is to be
the highest of the minarets on the Mount, and the first to be built in over 600
years, according to Dr. Raief Najim, vice chairman of the committee running the
project. The declaration's unpopularity was not necessarily initially echoed in
the Jordanian public arena, as the benefits of increased tourism and economic
gain were rife with promise.
However, basic support for the treaty lasted for
about a year and a half, after which it came to dawn that attitudes on either
side remained unchanged.
The signing of the Washington Declaration paved the way
for Jordan and Israel to reach agreement on their Treaty of Peace, which they
signed on October 26, 1994.