Jordan will participate in a scheduled conference in Bahrain this month, where U.S. officials are expected to unveil the economic aspects of the so-called “deal of the century”, a back-channel plan to reach a peace settlement between the Palestinians and Israel.
Analysts believe that Amman’s participation in the meeting on June 25-26 came upon pressure by U.S. President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who visited the kingdom late last month.
“Jordan’s participation in this conference paves the way for the deal of the century, which was rejected by the Jordanian king and government,” Palestinian security expert Zakaria al-Qak, who is also a professor at Al-Quds University, told Anadolu Agency.
“This decision means that Jordan is at least ready to hear and think about the terms of the deal,” he said.
“This is very dangerous to Jordan’s role in the Palestinian cause,” he opined.
During a meeting with politicians last week, Jordan’s King Abdullah II spoke of “the need for Jordan to be present in the Bahrain conference or any other conferences, so that it can listen to and know what is going on and not be outside the circle.”
The Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership has refused to take part in the Bahrain conference, saying it is aimed at undermining the rights of the Palestinian people.
“With Jordan’s participation in the event”, al-Qak said, “the Palestinian leadership feels now they have no Arab shield and they are going to face the deal without any Arab support”.
Along with Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar said they will send representatives to the meeting.
The Trump administration is expected to roll out the economic aspects of the controversial peace plan during the conference.
Bahrain has defended the upcoming meeting, characterizing it as an attempt to “empower” the Palestinians.
Ever since Trump’s controversial decision in December 2017 to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah has rejected any U.S. role in Middle East peacemaking.
Jerusalem remains at the heart of the perennial Mideast conflict, with Palestinians hoping East Jerusalem — occupied by Israel since 1967 — might eventually serve as the capital of an independent Palestinian state.
Azzam al-Ahmad, a leading figure of the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said Ramallah was not surprised by the decision of Jordan and Egypt to take part in the Bahrain conference.
“They have special relations with the United States, and we cannot judge their decision or the circumstances that made them to participate,” he told Anadolu Agency.
He, however, said “we expect their participation in the conference to be symbolic”.
Jordan has always maintained that it would accept what the Palestinians approve regarding the peace process with Israel.
Amman says it backs the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital, and the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes in historical Palestine.
The kingdom has condemned the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem and reiterated its role as a custodian of Islamic and Christian holy sites in the occupied city.
“Jordan’s society and economy are linked to the West Bank and it is concerned that any fallout from the U.S. peace plan could affect its stability,” Abdul Rahman Al-Haj Ibrahim, a Palestinian expert in international relations and professor at Birzeit University, told Anadolu Agency.
According to Al-Haj Ibrahim, Jordan faces numerous challenges, including a severe economic crisis due to the reduction in U.S. and Gulf aid.
“The declining Jordanian economy could push the kingdom to accept the ‘deal of the century’, resettle Palestinian refugees in Jordan and abandon of the Hashemite guardianship on the Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem,” he said.
“This would lead to negative consequences on the demographic composition of Jordan and might threaten the throne,” the expert warned.
Al-Haj Ibrahim, however, said that there are no indications that Jordan will make concessions in terms of accepting the deal”.
Jordanians of Palestinian origin are estimated to account for more than a half of Jordan’s population.
Political expert Hanna Issa, for his part, believes that coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Jordan remains at its highest level.
“The Jordanian leadership would never accept any terms that might negatively affect the Palestinians,” he told Anadolu Agency.
Issa opines that Amman has several bargaining powers in its hands.
“Jordan has the longest border of an Arab state with Israel and while securing these borders is a very difficult, the U.S. would never accept any decline in Jordan’s security role in this file,” he said.
“The Hashemite Kingdom also plays a significant role in regional stability by hosting over 1.3 million Syrian refugees,” Issa said.
“Whatsoever the pressure is,” Issa said, “Jordan’s position will not change because this will mean a political suicide for this country and its leadership.”