Why the joint statement matters: Jordan, Egypt close ranks on annexation?

The closing of ranks between Egypt and Jordan, the two countries that share borders and peace with Israel, is important.

Jordan's King Abdullah welcomes Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at Amman airport (photo credit: MUHAMMAD HAMED/REUTERS)
Jordan's King Abdullah welcomes Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at Amman airport
An important joint statement by foreign ministers of Egypt, France, Germany and Jordan has sought to unify their positions on Israel’s proposed annexation of parts of the West Bank, while also discussing “fruitful engagement” that could aid the peace process. The joint statement was made by a video conference, Reuters reported Monday.
The text of the statement is not surprising. The countries say they won’t recognize changes to the 1967 borders that are not agreed upon by both parties of the conflict. The rest of the statement presents annexation as creating an obstacle to achieving peace. It could harm stability in the region. Much of this is well known and is the official position of Jordan and Egypt as well as their partners in the region. This has also been the position of the Arab Peace Initiative going back to 2002.
Jordan had previously warned Israel in even more harsh terms about annexation. There were hints it could harm the 1994 peace deal and that it upsets the status quo in Jerusalem, which Jordan holds dear. Jordan’s former foreign minister Marwan Muasher has even suggested that if Israel continues down the road of annexation, Palestinians will seek a “one state” solution of full citizenship in Israel.
Egypt has been the more quiet of the two countries and the first that achieved peace with Israel. Today, Egypt is focused on a conflict in Libya where a Turkish-backed offensive threatens stability. Additionally, Egypt is concerned about a dam being built on the upper Nile River by Ethiopia that would threaten its water supply. Egypt is also fighting ISIS in the Sinai.
As such, Egypt does not want any changes to the status quo. Egypt has tried hard to keep any problems in Gaza from affecting the Sinai, and it has sought to achieve security in the area. The Egyptian army has suffered difficult loses fighting terrorism in recent years as well. The country also must deal with the COVID-19 crisis, where there are thought to be 76,000 cases of coronavirus and some 4,000 deaths.
Regional media in the Gulf see the statement as important. The closing of ranks between Egypt and Jordan, the two countries that share borders and peace treaties with Israel, is important. It is equally important to see France’s involvement. France has generally taken its own route to dealing with the Middle East in recent years.
France, unlike the US, for instance, does not appease Ankara and has been tough on demanding Turkey stop its endless invasions of countries in the region. France has a strong record on working closely with Israel, and it plays a key role in coordinating the battle against jihadists and extremists in West Africa and the Sahel.
It is worth noting that Egypt is a close ally of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In addition, the Jordanian monarchy is closely linked to other regional monarchies.
However, Jordan’s concerns over the Trump administration’s moves have been clear since 2017. The king sought close relations with Washington in 2017, hoping the US would listen to these concerns. But after numerous meetings and calls, the Trump administration went ahead with moving the US Embassy, which led to growing criticism from Amman.
Turkey tried to take advantage of this, inviting the king to Istanbul and pressing for an “Islamic” response to the US and Israeli moves.
While that was happening, US President Donald Trump went to Saudi Arabia in 2017 for the famous meeting with the king of Saudi Arabia and Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as part of an Arab and Islamic conference. That conference included the photo-op of Trump with the glowing orb with the Egyptian and Saudi leaders.
Since then, Trump has appeared less interested in the Saudi-UAE-Egypt-Bahrain bloc of countries and more interested in working with Turkey. This leaves concerns about the overall US commitment to security and stability in the region. Countries such as Jordan and Egypt and their allies in the Gulf must consider their moves on their own or with European countries such as France and Germany.
Emblematic of the statement on Monday is the overall absence of the US in dealing with the Middle East. As Trump told West Point Military Academy graduates last month, the US doesn’t care about wars in faraway lands that “no one has ever heard of.”
The statement by Egypt and Jordan can be a positive message for Israel, indicating a coming together of these countries and opening a door for better cooperation with an Israel that decides to walk back on annexation.
Two of Israel’s leading defense companies, Rafael and IAI (Israel Aerospace Industries), recently signed an agreement with Group 42 in the UAE, a symbol of growing ties with the Gulf. The agreement is about confronting COVID-19, but it has larger ramifications.
This is the context of the joint statement by Egypt and Jordan, alongside France and Germany. France and Germany are key partners for Israel, and France especially stands to play a major role in the Mediterranean, as it has historically.