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Annegret Hilse/​Reuters

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Jordan's King in Berlin

A partner for dialogue and de-escalation in the Middle East

The recent escalation of violence in the Middle East conflict is also shaking Jordan. The population is upset, King Abdullah is trying to mediate. Today he meets Chancellor Scholz in Berlin.

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With the unprecedented attack by Hamas on Israel, the Middle East conflict with all its brutality has forced itself back onto the agenda of international politics. The recent escalation of violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories also affects neighboring Jordan, which has ever since been considered a loyal ally of the West and an anchor of stability in the crisis-stricken Middle East.

On his long-planned European tour, King Abdullah is trying to mediate and de-escalate. Today, he is stopping off in Berlin. At home, meanwhile, the people's soul is boiling. Although Hamas traditionally enjoys little support in Jordan, solidarity with the Palestinians is now greater than ever Tens of thousands have been demonstrating in the capital city of Amman, and across the country in recent days. The West is accused of double standards and unconditional support for Israel and its military actions Gaza, especially regarding the civilian casualties. Europe and Germany are rapidly losing credibility.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has always been of existential importance for Jordan. Most of Jordan's population consists of descendants of Palestinians who were driven from their homeland in the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967. Jordan also has close historical and cultural ties to the West Bank. To this day, the King of Jordan is the custodian of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, which has a special meaning for the entire Arab and Islamic world.

Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994. Cooperation in security and border protection function smoothly. There are also promising Jordanian Israeli cooperation opportunities in the areas of water and energy supply. But ultimately this peace has always remained cold. From the point of view of many Jordanians, the hoped-for economic dividend failed to materialize. And the hopes back then for an own Palestinian state have long since faded.

Jordan is trying to play a mediator role.

Instead, the ongoing expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank in violation of international law is fueling a scenario that has long been feared in Amman, i.e. a mass displacement of Palestinians from the West Bank to Jordan. This would not only overtax the resource-poor country's infrastructure but also upset the demographic and power-political balance - with unforeseeable consequences for the stability of the kingdom.

This is one of the reasons why Jordan has been trying for decades to play a mediating role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The first meeting between representatives of the then newly elected right-wing Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority took place in the southern Jordanian port city of Aqaba in February of this year. A few years ago, Jordan, together with Germany, France, and Egypt, established the "Cloverleaf Format" (“Munich Quartet”) to maintain the perspective of a two-state solution (with regular meetings of the foreign ministers of these countries, most recently in Berlin in May).

Escalation of violence could endanger German Jordanian cooperation.

Germany is also an important partner for Jordan outside of this diplomatic cooperation. Since the "Arab Spring" more than ten years ago and the civil war in neighboring Syria, German support for the country has multiplied, especially to support Jordan in accepting the over a million Syrian refugees who have fled here. Numerous German institutions are present in Amman and work from here in the whole region. The German Armed Forces has maintained an air base in Al-Azraq in the Jordanian desert since 2017 and from there takes part in the international anti-terror campaign in Iraq.

The recent escalation of violence in the Middle East can endanger this trusted cooperation. Nowadays German and Jordanian perceptions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are diverging even further. Only an honest and respectful dialogue can help here. As important as it is for Germany to recognize its own history and the resulting responsibilities, particularly for Israel's security, German Middle East policy, if it wants to make a lasting contribution to conflict resolution, must also acknowledge and take seriously the perspectives from the Middle East region itself.

The disaster that the people in Israel and the Palestinian territories are currently suffering is also shattering the deceptive certainties with which attempts have been made in recent years to only “manage” the Middle East conflict or simply push it aside. When the dust of the war has settled, we will have to think about new solutions for how Israelis and Palestinians can live together peacefully between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. Germany and Jordan, which have good relations with both parties, can and should be available as partners to mediate. Today's meeting between the Jordanian King Abdullah and Chancellor Olaf Scholz can provide the first basis for this effort.

This article was originally published in German on ntv at 17.10.2023 and can be found here.

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