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The Jordanian-Israeli Strategic Partnership
in Historical Perspective

Alexander Bligh
Policy Paper No. 45, 1998


The signing ceremony of the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty in October 1994 made public one of the most known secrets in Middle Eastern politics: the strong bond between Israel and Jordan. It began in 1960 as top level negotiations between military officers and later developed into a king-prime ministers direct, secret and regular forum, which survived two wars and numerous political challenges.

This regional strategic alliance has been the result of a powerful sense of common aims, present interests and the realization that any future threat to any of them might in turn change the fate of the other.

Direct Israeli-Jordanian relations are approaching their 40th anniversary. It is clear that both sides have benefited from this relationship. Israel shared the burden of Egyptian enmity in the 1950s and 1960s with Jordan, while in the 1980s and 1990s found in Jordan a buffer state separating Iraq from Israel. Jordan found in Israel a trustworthy ally: in 1967 under circumstances not yet clearly discussed, Israel relieved the Hashemite kingdom of the Palestinian threat to its very existence by taking over the Palestinian West Bank. Again, in 1970 and 1980 Israel stood guard and deterred Syria from taking aggressive measures against the kingdom.

In addition to these mutual strategic benefits Jordan used Israeli connections in Washington to convey the message that Jordan is now a stable and moderate state. Clearly, the Israeli-Jordanian block, with constant US backing in the background have contributed significantly to the survival of the monarchy. All past crises follow one clear pattern of political and strategic behavior by the two partners: assisting each other against a third Arab player, usually the Palestinian threat.

During these almost 40 years of negotiations Jordanian foreign policy has been based on two pillars: a constant a strong coalition with Israel, and a variable a short term coalition with one of the Arab neighbors of Jordan. This way, publicly, Jordan has paid its dues to the cause of Arab solidarity, while secretly the kingdom based its very survival on the meeting of interests with the Jewish state. This duality has also characterized the Jordanian position vs. the components of the final settlement in the Middle East.

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