Decades after Washington Declaration, peace remains ‘unfinished’

Declaration ended over forty years of war with Israel

Wadi Araba, Jordan, Israel, Peace
His Majesty the late King Hussein, US President Bill Clinton, and former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin during the signing ceremony of the Washington Declaration, on the White House lawn in Washington DC, on July 25th, 1994. (Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — Twenty-seven years ago today, on July 25th, 1994, His Majesty King Hussein, US president Bill Clinton, and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the Washington Declaration at the White House in Washington DC. The agreement formally brought an end to forty-six years of war between the Kingdom and Israel in the aftermath of the Oslo Accords.اضافة اعلان

The declaration was designed for the “achievement of a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace between Arab states and the Palestinians, with Israel.” The document also guaranteed Hashemite control over the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem, established direct telephone links between Jordan and Israel, opened two new border crossings between the nations, linking of power grids, and security cooperation. Just months later, the two countries signed the Wadi Araba peace treaty and established mutual diplomatic relations.

At the time, the declaration served as a beacon of hope for a lasting solution to Israeli occupation and Palestinian sovereignty. But according to experts speaking with Jordan News, the declaration now serves as a reminder of how little the peace process has accomplished for Palestine and Jordan both.

Mohammad Al-Momani, former minister of information and member of the Senate, told Jordan News that the declaration “is a reminder of the great days when great leaders led their people and fought the battle to bring peace against all odds.”

“Compare that to (Benjamin) Netanyahu’s populism and then you see the drastic difference,” he said.

According to Oraib Rantawi, founder and director general of the Amman-based Al-Quds Center for Political Studies, the declaration was formed during a region-wide effort to “reach comprehensive peace in the region” with regards to a variety of key issues, with finance, refugees, water, security, among them.

After the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, “Jordan found itself in a position to also conclude a deal,” said Rantawi in an interview with Jordan News. Rantawi explained that Palestine and the ongoing occupation were the main issues between Jordan and Israel. Once Palestinian authorities settled their own agreements on thornier issues, like refugee resettlements, self-determination, and the annexation of Palestinian land, “little remained for Jordan to discuss with the Israelis: security, cooperation, the economy.” Therefore, it took little time after the declaration for the peace treaty to be signed.

But almost three decades later, “Israel today is not the same,” said Rantawi, and the declaration has a different valence than it did then. He said that the left-wing and peace camps in Israel have lost power since the declaration was signed — and the extreme right-wing parties have grown more and more powerful.

“We saw the increasing influence of the religious groups, Israeli politics and daily life,” he said. “Israel is changing systematically.”

The analyst pointed out the rise of both religious and nationalist right-wing parties in Israel who increasingly control the country’s political dynamics. “You will see after each election, the far right always gains more and more ground,” he said. “We saw also the increasing influence of the settler lobbies, which is also combined with far right and religious groups.”

According to Rantawi, the peace process signaled by the Washington Declaration and the Oslo Accords “started to collapse early, since (Benjamin) Netanyahu’s first government.” He pointed to the 1997 Israeli assassination attempt against Hamas leader Khaled Mashal in Jordan as one example of the collapse of these processes.

“Now with the far right, they pay less attention to the Jordan-Israeli relationship,” he said. “The value of Jordan from their perspective is getting less and less. Their priorities changed: It is all about annexation, Jerusalem” and the expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank.

However, Rantawi argued that under the new Israeli government, there is “pressure on Israel to restore this relationship” between Jordan and Israel, through agreements like the water deal. He described new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as “more polite with Jordan than Netanyahu.”

For Rantawi, 27 years after the declaration was signed and just months after violence exploded in the West Bank and Gaza, the current situation between Israel, Jordan, and Palestine foretells more crises soon.

“I think that we have a serious problem after the collapse of the peace process, lack of the opportunity of the two-state solution, lack of opportunity for a viable Palestinian state,” he said. A “Palestinian viable state is good for Jordan, better than any other alternative.”

“Maybe not now, but we are heading towards more crises, if they don’t make it possible to have a two-state solution.”

Momani likewise emphasized the importance of a two-state solution to fulfill the hopes of the Declaration.  “Peace is unfinished business that needs to be completed, and that will require courage and commitment to international legitimacy and the two state solution,” he said.

“Since we engaged in peace talks with Israel, we continue to be committed to the spirit of peace,” he said. “The end game for us is a sustainable, just, comprehensive peace that will bring stability and prosperity to the peoples of the region. Every effort to disrupt peace that is based on the two-state solution — like what Netanyahu did — goes directly against the strategic interests of Jordan.”