Were reports of a Jordanian coup a wake-up call for Israel?

According to analysts, former diplomats and security personnel, Jordan’s stability should always be an Israeli concern.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al Safadi and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of European Commission Josep Borrell speak to the media after their meeting in Amman, Jordan, February 2, 2020 (photo credit: REUTERS/MUHAMMAD HAMED)
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al Safadi and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of European Commission Josep Borrell speak to the media after their meeting in Amman, Jordan, February 2, 2020
(photo credit: REUTERS/MUHAMMAD HAMED)
 The house arrest of Jordan’s King Abdullah’s half-brother, Prince Hamzah bin Hussein, for actions targeting the security and stability of a key Israeli and United States ally reverberated globally and regionally.
Once the dust settled, it almost seemed as if the story had been overblown particularly given that Prince Hamzah did not appear to have the support of the military, a necessary ingredient for the success of a Jordanian coup.
“Without support from the military a coup is not a coup,” said Nimrod Novik, a chief adviser to president and prime minister Shimon Peres.
But the poor economy in Jordan, made worse by the corona pandemic and its hosting of a large number of refugees from the Syrian conflict in the last decade, has created the perfect breeding ground for a potential crisis.
According to analysts, former diplomats and security personnel, Jordan’s stability should always be an Israeli concern.
Saturday’s events in Jordan, therefore, should be a wake-up call to Israelis to pay more attention to its immediate neighbor.
Israel’s longest border is with Jordan, where the Hashemite Kingdom provides Israel an immediate buffer zone of strategic depth between it and Iraq and Iran.
Without Jordan, some speculated Iran could be entrenching itself along that Jordanian border as well as the Syrian one.
According to foreign sources, Jordan provides Israel with an air-route to attack Iranian military proxies in Syria.
“We should always be concerned about what happens in Jordan,” said former US negotiator Dennis Ross, who served during the Obama, Clinton and Bush administrations. “Jordan’s position has been pivotal and its stability is essential.”
If Israel can’t count on Jordan to maintain security along that border, then that changes the country’s entire military strategy, said Ross, who is a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The stakes are high here for the United States and for the Gulf nations as well, he said.
“Even if this turns out not to be so real, this is a wake-up call, a reminder that we should be paying close attention because our stakes are high and that gives us good reason to take stock and consider if there are things we can be doing differently than we are doing now,” said Ross.
Former Israeli ambassador to Jordan Oded Eran, a research fellow at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), said that Israel has maintained tight and good relations with the Jordanian military.
But Novik said that the relations between the two governments has been poor, noting that Israel has not invested in Jordanian stability and should take Saturday’s events seriously.
Among the crisis points between the two countries, he said, has been Israel’s failure to take seriously Jordan’s special custodial role on the Temple Mount.
“It’s mostly with the Temple Mount where we are undermining regime legitimacy,” he said.
He pointed to the last month’s crisis in which Israel denied Hashemite Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah entry to Israel so that he could visit the Temple Mount.
This follows reports that Israel would consider a role for Saudi Arabia on the Mount, explained Novik, a fellow at the Israel Policy Forum and on the Commanders for Israel’s Security steering committee.
It’s a chain of minor incidents with each one looking like a kindergarten quarrel, he said, but put together they have an impact.
On top of that, he added, just last week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delayed approving a request by Jordan for water, according to media reports.
Other analysts as well as Ross suggested that the gesture of helping Israeli with its water crisis could go a long way to helping King Abdullah.
After that, analysts suggested that Israel could move forward on joint projects that could help Jordan economically.
There needs to be an overall strategic approach, said Novik, who called on Netanyahu to convene an interagency task force to discuss ways to help stabilize Jordan.
If this happens, he said, then “if this was a wake-up call, it was worth it,” Novik said.