More than Half-Way but Not Full Friends: Israel and Jordan


ephraim_sneh.jpgThis morning I received an email from former Israel Labor Party Deputy Leader and former Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh. It started “To my Muslim friends – Ramadan Karim”.
Sneh maintains a friends mailing list for his thoughts and articles, and I’m honored to be included — and appreciate very much that in a time that the United States is twisting itself in moral knots over the false debate about a mosque near the World Trade Center site in New York that Sneh — a leading Jewish Israeli statesman — is reaching out to his Muslim friends.
He sets a better example of intellectual and cultural openness than many US political leaders (with a blind spot or two).
Although some of Sneh’s views are divergent from my own, particularly on Iran — which he thinks is an irrational nation to its core bent on the annihilation of Israel, I always read him and take him seriously. He was one of those whose comments recently appeared in Jeffrey Goldberg’s important Atlantic Monthly article “The Point of No Return.” (My response to Goldberg appears here.)
But it is not about Iran that Sneh writes today; it is about “Israel and Jordan.” (unfortunately the link to the article is not yet up on the Haaretz website. I will post as soon as available.)
After remarking about how Israeli concerns about a dangerous “Eastern Front” buffering Jordan and Israel had been transformed to one of quite and stability, Sneh writes:

In the sixteen years that have passed since that ceremony in the Arava valley, Jordan has carefully ensured that its border with Israel remains quiet and safe. The efforts of the Jordanian army and Jordanian intelligence have prevented terrorist penetrations from the eastern side of the border. The effort is impressive and so are its results. We have never publicly expressed our thanks to the Kingdom of Jordan; I hope that by other channels we did so.
Of late, official spokesmen are again mentioning the “Eastern Front”. It’s not as though we are short of security worries; on the other hand, this is not an entirely groundless concern. The military vacuum that will be formed after the exit of most of the US forces from Iraq, and the growing Iranian hold and influence on Iraq, give a certain justification for these fears, though the threat is neither tangible nor immediate.
Yet those who are truly worried–and the statements I have mentioned come from sources inside the government–have work to do. The thing most needed now, even without summoning up the “Eastern Front” from our strategic memories, is to strengthen Jordan, militarily and politically.

This is enlightened thinking from a former senior Israeli politician. Sneh calls for Israel to remove its opposition to Jordan developing its uranium resources for civilian use and also suggests that Israel support Jordan’s efforts to refurbish an oil pipeline from Mosul to Haifa, moving Iraqi oil through Jordan to the Mediterranean. In what was news to me, the US is also allegedly helping to finance and construct a security wall between Jordan and Syria — which Sneh thinks should be extended to the border between Jordan and Iraq.
And Sneh concludes:

And finally a point of morality. It would be best if for once we did not act ungratefully toward one of our few allies in the Middle East.

I want to commend Ephraim Sneh for his tone — and to tell those who have given up thinking and listening in the US for bluster and screaming — that there is something important when an Israeli leader can reach out and Americans, particularly Republican leaders at the moment — but I’ll add Senator Harry Reid to the mix — can’t manage a similarly enlightened posture.
The one missing hole in Sneh’s article is that while he recognizes that Israel can do a lot to change the temperature in Jordan, the biggest help would come in doing more to resolve the Israel-Palestine standoff and to pull the plug on the ongoing expansion, military protection, and tax subsidization of illegal settlements in occupied territories.
I know that Sneh is actually a strong proponent of a two state outcome resulting in a secure Israel and viable, contiguous Palestinian state. But this is not something to leave out of the equation when it comes to helping Jordan achieve greater security and normalcy.
Until the toxic Palestinian situation is resolved, Jordan and Israel may be better than half-way friends but can’t ever be full friends.
— Steve Clemons


7 comments on “More than Half-Way but Not Full Friends: Israel and Jordan

  1. nadine says:

    It is “Israelified” to demand human rights for Palestinians?
    Obviously, the only “authentic” Palestinians are the ones who obediently refuse to print anything about the PA’s human rights abuses but blame everything on Israel. And their Western media aiders and abettors.
    Could Abu Toameh’s remarks on Gaza have anything to do with his low opinion of Hamas, hm? You know, that organization whose existence you habitually ignore?


  2. jdledell says:

    Nadine – Khalid Abu Toameh has been completely Israelified. He has written nothing but contempt for arabs and palestinians. A year ago, he gave a talk in Jerusalem I attended where he insisted the only solution was to carve out the Palestinian cities and connect them to Jordan while giving 55% of the West Bank to Israel. His solution for Gaza was similar in that it would be turned over to Egypt. He then made a very telling comment, he said maybe it would even be better in Egypt just took the Gaza people and Israel could do wonderful things with those beautiful beaches.
    Needless to say he got a rousing cheer from the audience – his Hebrew is flawless.


  3. downtown says:
    Hmm, now where have I heard some of these names before?
    Why bring this up in this thread, anyway?


  4. nadine says:

    Journalist Khalid Abu Toameh reports how Western media chooses to report on the “toxic Palestinians situation” — those reports that so many here believe are fair and balanced, to coin a phrase:
    “The arrest last week of seven Palestinian university lecturers at the hands of Palestinian Authority security services in the West Bank is yet another example of how the international media functions in this part of the world.
    Some Palestinian stringers and reporters offered the story about the arrest of the academics to at least a dozen foreign correspondents and newspaper editors in North America and Europe.
    Only one foreign journalist agreed to write about the story. His colleagues gave different excuses for turning their backs on the story.
    Some said they were concerned about their personal safety should they report a news item that was likely to anger the Western-funded PA security forces in the West Bank.
    Others simply blamed their editors in New York, Paris, London and Toronto for turning down the story as “insignificant.”
    Earlier this week, a disenchanted Ramallah-based Palestinian journalist decided to put her Western colleagues to the test. She contacted the same group of newsmen and editors who had been offered the story on the academics’ arrest with a “new idea” for a news item.
    The Palestinian journalist proposed that the foreign press write about a Palestinian university professor who complained that Israeli authorities had turned down his request to visit Israel together with his wife and three children.
    The response from the international journalists came almost instantly. All but two said it was a “great story” and expressed readiness to start working on it immediately.
    It is worth noting that the Palestinian Authority’s General Intelligence Service had warned Palestinian journalists and university staff members not to report about the detention of the academics. Of course the Palestinian media in the West Bank, which is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, complied.
    The Palestinian authorities even threatened the president of the university not to complain about the arrest of his lecturers. He too complied, and even went as far as to switch off his mobile phone to avoid questions from journalists.
    One can only imagine the reaction of the international media had the Palestinian academics been arrested by Israel.”


  5. rc says:

    A pleasant surprise and an engaging humility for someone so well engaged in the Israeli project.
    There is hope yet for sanity and some type of justice and peace perhaps. But one lone voice in the den of wolves will not carry much weight and likely just serve cynical PR strategies.
    Iran is a complex issue on its own and I think more progress would be made through peer-to-peer dialogue than arrogant bluster. Until now Russia and China have successfully excluded the US and EU from economic engagement with Iran and its natural resources.
    Peace with Jordon may be a good thing but I’m not sure the US educated ‘king’ and his American wife hold that much power or influence in the region after ousting the other line of the family with a little help from obvious sources.
    The Iran-Israel nexus is even more complex. Apart from pride in history and significant recent large scale social trauma due to wars and large scale death, the real and deeper common link between Israel and Iran is their millennial orientated psyche. One waiting for the Messiah and the other the return of the ‘king’ (read 12th Iman and Ahmadi etc).
    Although these general escatological themes permeate many religions deriving from this region, the particular ‘grevience’ generally shared by the Jews and the Persians seems to be one of ‘failed promises’ the by assumed all powerful Creator. Such conditions lead to a tragic-romantic world-view that can easily slip from a sense of ‘specialness’ into a self-fulfilling prophecy of despair and fear.
    IMO nothing much can be done with this bipolarity in the Middle East — either at the personal or the national levels. They wait and wait and wait for the ‘chosen one’ depending on their respective narratives (which are largely the same with name changes for key character roles).
    The only sane policy for external players can be to manage the situation so that peace prevails where and when ever possible. Only transformation can work but this is unlikely without huge cost.
    Lithium seems to offer hope for a future energy hungry world beyond petroleum — and strangely, it also offers respite for certain psychic conditions of unwellness.
    Ephraim Sneh may well be wishing his Moslem friends “Ramadan Karim” but he’d be making more friends if he and his government allowed ordinary Moslems in Jerusalem to pray in Al-Aqsa Mosque — especially during Ramadan!
    Anyway, enough of my ‘2-cents worth’ — well done for sharing some sane words from a well intentioned person at a time of heightening hysteria about how and where to pray to the one and only ‘all powerful’ Creator who probably does not give a toss about Ground Zero, Zionist hero or Persian Nero. It has given me some new food for thought.


  6. questions says:

    On Iran, is it possible that the rational and the irrational meet around the other side?
    That is, an irrational state of course won’t do cost/benefit analysis quite the same way, won’t respond to deterrence quite the way we want, won’t be bullied even on pain of mass death….
    But a rational state might be pushed by internal politics to behave as if internationally irrational.
    If, to maintain his power internally, Ahmadinejad has to be a little bit internationally, ummm, wild, this could actually be problematic.
    I don’t really know how the realists deal with this internal/external divide. Do you just simply assume that the internal is outweighed by the external? And so there’s this clear bright line that no one would ever cross?
    What level of certainty is there that domestic survival might not outweigh international MAD line-toeing?


  7. jonst says:

    Steve, I don’t want to detract from the main thrust of this post. It is an interesting post on its own. But I fail to see why the debate about the so called mosque (the so called is not meant to be snarky, I simply don’t know what to call it)debate is a “false debate”. It is clearly a false debate to some members of the GOP. Agreed. But why can’t Americans have uneasy feelings about the entire project? Is this so hard to believe?
    Now, one might readily ask, ‘ok, so what, why give in to that, albeit, valid, and truly felt, unease?’. Ok, that is a good question. But why is it a false debate then?
    Why do the alleged majority, fairly significant alleged majority, have to be dupes, or bigots, or ignorant, about the building of the mosque? And if they CAN oppose the building of the mosque, and oppose it in good faith, why is this a “false debate”? Why not simply a ‘debate’? Two sides…with some good points, perhaps, on both sides.


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