US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Jordan this week delivering some very good news for Jordan – but not for the PLO and UNRWA.
Tillerson announced America’s commitment to fund Jordan to the tune of $1.275 billion per annum for the next five years – an increase of $275 million per annum over the previous annual commitment of $1 billion per annum during 2015-2017.
Part of this increased funding seems certain to come from defunding UNRWA – which receives about $355 million per annum from America. $65 million to UNRWA has already been frozen following President Trump’s earlier warning.
Tillerson stated that America’s ongoing contribution to UNRWA is dependent upon what other non-donor States who can afford to contribute to UNRWA are willing to do.
Trump has also expressed his annoyance at countries that take America’s money then show hostile intent in the United Nations when voting on matters inimical to American interests – such as America’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US Embassy there.
Jordan had voted with 127 other nations at a rare emergency meeting of the General Assembly on 21 December 2017 asking nations not to establish diplomatic missions in Jerusalem.
Yet Jordan has not been punished financially by Trump for that decision but has seen its funding substantially increased. Secretary Tillerson justified America’s decision at his joint press conference with Jordanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman Safadi – citing:
1. The truly indispensable strategic partnership for decades between the United States and Jordan that’s been critical to the security of both nations, as well as contributing to the region’s security.
2. Jordan receiving [650,000] displaced Syrian refugees.
3. Jordan actively participating in the Global Coalition to Defeat Islamic State
4. Jordan cutting diplomatic ties with North KoreaTillerson’s North Korea remarks were particularly significant since the “Embassy of Palestine” remains open in North Korea.
Trump has also certainly not forgotten PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s extraordinary two-hour-long anti-American and Jew-hating diatribe delivered on January 14.
Tillerson also stressed President Trump’s commitment to respecting Jordan’s role as the Custodian of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem. This special role was assigned to Jordan in the 1994 Jordan-Israel
Peace Treaty and seems set to be one of the cardinal planks in President Trump’s eagerly-awaited proposals to resolve the Jewish-Arab conflict.
Foreign Minister Safadi pointedly remarked:
Jordan’s position starkly contrasts with the PLO which will not accept America’s pivotal role.“We’ll continue to work with this current administration [to resolve the conflict] because we believe in the key role of the United States in delivering that peace. We cannot give up. It is a difficult situation. The challenge is not to make it worse and to find a way of moving forward. If we do not have the two-state solution, then I think we’re looking at a longer period of conflict that would only play into the hands of the spoilers and radicals who want to exploit the suffering and despair of people to spread their agenda of hate.”
Any negotiated two-state solution involving the creation of another Arab State between Israel and Jordan for the first time in recorded history was rejected by the Arabs in 1947 – could have been created at any time by the Arab League between 1948 and 1967 – and was again rejected by the PLO in 2000/1 and 2008.
Jordan – comprising 78% of former Palestine – has now signalled its readiness to move forward with Trump on achieving his “ultimate deal”. Trump’s latest funding commitment to Jordan guarantees Jordan’s co-operation for the next five years.
The PLO’s anti-America stance continues to test Trump’s patience.