Treading on Israel: Jordanians' anger with Israel challenges King Abdullah

Jordan’s national labor union announces that Israeli flags will continue to be displayed and denigrated at its offices throughout the kingdom.

By TERRANCE J. MINTNER/THE MEDIA LINE
January 10, 2019 01:21
3 minute read.
Jordan's King Abdullah II (R) greets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Jordan's King Abdullah II (R) greets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2010. (photo credit: JASON REED/REUTERS)

 
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Israel’s Foreign Ministry has filed a protest with the Jordanian government over recent incidents involving Israeli flags being disrespected in public places.

The most conspicuous episode took place last week when a photo from a Jordanian website called Jfranews began circulating online. It showed Jordan’s Information Minister Jumana Ghneimat walking across a large depiction of the Israeli flag as she made her way through the main entrance to the Professional Unions complex in Amman.

The flag, which was drawn or painted on the floor, depicted black shoe prints across the Star of David.

In the following days, leaders of the country’s labor movement appeared to preempt any blowback by declaring that the Israeli banner will also be displayed at other union offices throughout the kingdom.

“We will draw the flag on all entrances to the complex in Amman and its branch offices in the provinces,” Ibrahim al-Tarawneh, head of the Jordanian Dentists Union, told a local media outlet.

Union representatives claim the flag has been on display for several years at entrances to their buildings and that the purpose is to protest Israel’s “occupation” of Palestinian territories as well as Amman’s official ties with Jerusalem.

Some observers proffer that the banner serves as a daily reminder of an alleged oath taken by every member of the Jordanian Dentists Union to reject the normalization of relations with Israel.

Jordan and Egypt are the only two Arab countries that have established formal diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.

Responding to Israel’s complaint, Majed Qatarneh, a spokesperson for Jordan’s Foreign Ministry, said the issue is being handled through “diplomatic channels” and that the building where the incident took place was “private.”

“We have emphasized that we respect the peace treaty with Israel,” he added.

Hillel Frisch, a Professor of Political Science at Bar-Ilan University, argues that the landmark 1994 agreement is uniquely a political one with the Jordanian monarchy and does not extend to the people.


“Usually a provocation like one involving the Israeli flag is not aimed at Israel; it’s more a problem for the king,” he explained to The Media Line, adding that tension exists between segments of Jordan's intellectual elite and the ruling Hashemite family.

“In Jordan’s bargain with Israel the kingdom is part of the latter’s security network, acting as a buffer state. But Israel has to live with all these kinds of provocations which are nothing new,” Frisch affirmed.

Much of this anti-Israel sentiment is the result of longstanding pan-Arab ideology mixed with a tinge of Marxism, according to Frisch. “Those who ascribe to this view often set the pace among the country’s elite. In that sense, Jordan is no different from Egypt or Lebanon.”

Ibrahim Saif, Director of the Jordan Strategy Forum, believes that Amman-Jerusalem ties are deteriorating.

“There is not much communication between the two governments over issues relating to security coordination and joint projects," he contended to The Media Line. "Furthermore, Jordanian officials have not been briefed about U.S. President Donald Trump’s so-called 'deal of the century' with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; this plan would have big implications for Jordan, which feels as though it has been left in the dark.”

Moreover, plans for increased economic cooperation, particularly as it relates to Israel's vast natural gas resources and the so-called Red Sea–Dead Sea pipeline that would bring much-needed water to the Jordan Valley, have stalled.

“These initiatives are now on hold and it is not clear where they are heading because they require close cooperation between Palestinians, Israelis and Jordanians, a level of engagement that has not been met,” Saif stressed.

Despite the peace accord, Israel-Jordan ties have traditionally been cold. Jordan is the custodian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem and repeatedly has criticized the Jewish state of blocking Palestinians from accessing them.

Meanwhile, Jordan’s King Abdullah II announced in October that he will not renew the leases of two plots of Jordanian-controlled land that Israeli agriculturists have been using since the signing of the 1994 treaty, a move analysts hold was taken in response to domestic pressure.

For more stories, go to themedialine.org

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