Tensions brewing in the turbulent Middle East may soon thrust Jordan’s King to center stage in the search for peace.
Perhaps no king and no people today are more acutely aware of the need for lasting peace in the Middle East than are the King and people of Jordan.
The stakes are enormous.
Life throughout Jordan is better today than ever before. Since the mid-1970s, the country of Jordan has been enjoying an unprecedented economic upsurge. Though largely barren and without oil, Jordan has become one of the world’s most rapidly developing countries.
But continued economic growth is conditional on peace. Were a major war to erupt once again in the Middle East, Jordan’s economy would be severely disrupted. Progress would be set back considerably – perhaps irreparably.
The people of Jordan want and need peace. But Jordanians are becoming increasingly concerned over several disturbing external trends that threaten to upset all they have so painstakingly achieved.
West Bank Turmoil
Take a brief look, from the Jordanian perspective, at what is occurring just across Jordan’s various borders.
To the west, across the Jordan River, turmoil and violence are on the upswing in the West Bank region. The West Bank was a part of Jordan for 19 years until Israel occupied it in the Arab-Israeli war of 1967.
Today, after 15 years of occupation, the ultimate fate of the 850,000 Palestinian Arabs living there is still unresolved. The question of autonomy, or self-rule, for the 1.3 million Palestinians living on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip remains a key issue in the Arab-Israeli dispute.
Arabs call for complete Israeli evacuation of those areas, clearing the way for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Israel, on the other hand, is convinced that accepting a Palestinian state would be suicidal, and therefore offers only a form of limited self-rule under overall Israeli sovereignty.
Continuing frictions have triggered a wave of demonstrations, general strikes and clashes between Israeli soldiers and Arabs. These incidents give urgent warning that the existing situation is not workable in the long run and could explode at any time-possibly pulling Jordan into direct military involvement.
No one, it seems, knows the way to peace in this or any other region of conflict (lsa. 59:8).
Rift with Syria
To Jordan’ s north lies Syria, with its formidable Soviet-supplied army and air force-another major worry for Jordanians.
Jordan’s relations with neighboring Syria have deteriorated significantly over recent years. Mutual suspicions have threatened on numerous occasions to erupt into open conflict between the two countries, who share a 240-mile common frontier.
Though mired in its own domestic troubles, Syria could prove a formidable opponent in a war with Jordan. Syria has a 200,000-man armed force, nearly three times larger than Jordan’ s 70,000-man army.
But Jordan’s experienced armed force is considered by many analysts to be possibly the most efficient in the Arab World. The proposed addition to Jordan’ s arsenal of sophisticated new American weapons-including mobile Hawk antiaircraft missiles and advanced F-16 fighter-bombers – would further bolster its armed strength.
But even at present strengths, a war between the two countries could be extremely bloody.
Much of the friction between Amman and Damascus is an outgrowth of another problem of regional concern.
To the east of Jordan lies Iraq, a country engaged in a protracted war against revolutionary Iran. The Iraq-Iran war has deeply fragmented
the Arab world, with countries divided in their support.
Syria and Libya, for example, support Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran. Jordan, on the other hand, openly supports Iraq. Earlier this year, Jordan’s King Hussein sent volunteer Jordanian troops (known as the Yarmouk Force) to aid Iraqi forces fighting Iran. King Hussein sees the Khomeini brand of Islamic fundamentalism as a threat aimed not only at Iraq, but also at Jordan and the entire Arab World.
“What is at stake is the very future of the Arab world as we know it,” King Hussein declares. He calls Iran’s effort to export its revolution “a sinister, almost criminal attempt to create a rift between Moslems.”
King Hussein’ s alliance with Iraq has considerably strengthened Jordan in the face of a possible Syrian threat. Iraq is also a major rival of Syria. The Jordan-Iraq entente thus presents Syria with the prospect of 600 miles of potentially hostile borders. Syria fears that a new political axis comprising Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia may be in the making.
The story is not yet complete. Yet another threat to peace looms near Jordan’ s borders-inside the bitterly divided nation of Lebanon.
This war-torn country-once the banking and trading center of the Arab world-has been rent asunder in recent years by divisive infighting and intervention by outside powers. In June, Israeli troops, backed by tanks and jet fighters, struck Palestinian guerrilla positions in what was Israel’ s deepest penetration of Lebanon to date. This invasion-designed to smash the Palestine Liberation Organization’s military structure in southern Lebanon-brought Israeli forces to the gates of Beirut. The PLO suffered heavy losses, from which it will not soon recover.
Despite the setbacks, the PLO declares it will carry on the fight. Observers are quick to point out that the PLO has not been destroyed, only weakened in Lebanon. No one has yet written off the PLO or its role within Lebanon. In the long term, Lebanon remains a potential Middle East tinderbox-and as such, a major concern to Jordanians.
Search for Peace
Anyone of the numerous threats to peace we have examined could trigger a sudden blowup in the Middle East, with wide implications for Jordan.
Jordan’ s concerns, as we have seen, are not centered exclusively on its relations with Israel. Many of the tensions besetting the region have nothing whatsoever to do with Israel.
Yet Israel is unquestionably a major concern of Jordan. Jordan shares a longer border with Israel than does any other Arab country.
Consequently, Jordan has been closely following developments on the West Bank, as well as the ongoing attempts to achieve a negotiated peace in the long-standing Arab-Israeli dispute. King Hussein has steered a guarded course since the disastrous Six-Day War against Israel in 1967. It was then that Jordan lost the fertile West Bank-acquired by war in 1948-to Israeli forces.
King Hussein’ s approach toward the American-sponsored Camp David peace process is a case in point. The Camp David framework-which brought about the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty and the Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai-calls for negotiations leading to some sort of autonomy for the Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Jordan surprised some Middle East experts by joining most of the Arab world in condemning Camp David.
King Hussein sensed from the outset what some observers are just now beginning to realize: the Camp David approach will not succeed because Israel is determined not to withdraw from the strategic West Bank. The King clearly perceived that Israel viewed the now-relinquished Sinai peninsula completely differently from the militarily crucial West Bank. Therefore, he concluded, Israel would not voluntarily yield effective control over the occupied West Bank, despite talk of a vaguely defined autonomy for the area.
Israeli settlements on the West Bank-now numbering more than 80 and containing some 25,000 Jewish inhabitants-continue to increase in number. King Hussein sees this as a clear signal that Israel has no intention of ever withdrawing from the occupied area. More-over, as the Camp David autonomy negotiations remain in limbo, rumors of possible Israeli annexation of the West Bank persist. Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights region has heightened suspicions in this regard.
With no Israeli commitment toward withdrawal in sight, King Hussein will have nothing to do with Camp David. In fact, he believes that with the Sinai withdrawal now completed, the end is in sight for Camp David.
“The Palestinian autonomy proposals will never work,” King Hussein declares. “Israel now says that the occupied territories belong to Israel. The Arabs say the occupation must end and the people granted self-determination. I cannot see how these two positions can be reconciled.”
From the standpoint of this present world, this tangled dilemma is indeed an unsolvable problem!
The “Jordanian Option”
Yet the search for peace continues. While King Hussein has refused to take part with Egypt in the Camp David peace process, he has also refused to side with radical Arab states who reject any kind of accommodation with Israel.
In Washington’ s view, a key ingredient for success with any plan is the participation of Jordan. Jordan has a vast Palestinian population of its own-perhaps even a Palestinian majority. Around half of Jordan’s 3.3 million people are Palestinian Arabs, most of whom are refugees from past Arab-Israeli wars.
In view of this, American policy-makers have long hoped that Jordan might one day enter the peace process, possibly as a spokesman for the Palestinian cause. Some have envisioned Israel swapping the West Bank back to Jordan in exchange for security guarantees, as it did the Sinai with Egypt.
There are reports that some Palestinians living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank are beginning to feel that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) coalition is hopelessly divided and unable to effectively negotiate for them. These Palestinians are hinting at some sort of Jordanian representation for themselves in peace negotiations.
The idea of a “Jordanian option” has been around for years. This concept envisions negotiations with Jordan on some sort of territorial compromise for the West Bank. Areas heavily populated with Palestinian Arabs would, under this proposal, be turned over to Jordanian sovereignty. Areas vital to Israel’s security would be retained by Israel. An independent Palestinian state would not be part of such a plan.
Publicly, King Hussein rejects any such proposal. At an Arab summit meeting in Rabat, Morocco, in 1974, Jordan officially abandoned its claim to the West Bank. Jordan joined other Arab nations in recognizing the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people.
But some observers feel that this is a decision King Hussein would take back, given the opportunity.
Amman has never completely ruled out the possibility that there might. ultimately be some sort of Palestinian link with Jordan. The official position is that Palestinians must be allowed to shape their own future as they deem fit. If a majority decides it would prefer West Bank federation with Jordan as opposed to an independent Palestinian state, Jordan has not said it would object.
The PLO, however, is dedicated to the goal of a fully sovereign, independent Palestinian nation on the West Bank. It opposes any form of “Jordanian option,” as such an approach would undermine the PLO’ s claim to be the sole representative of the Palestinian people.
These differing views on the issue, however, appear to be essentially beside the point. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s resolve to resist all talk of territorial compromise precludes any form of PLO or Jordanian participation in the autonomy talks. Jordan’s Crown Prince Hassan ibn Talal, who specializes in West Bank matters, recently restated his belief that the Israelis will continue efforts to rid the West Bank of both Jordanian and PLO influence.
No compromise settlement is in sight.
Beyond Human Control
The future of Jordan depends upon the interaction of factors that may ultimately prove to be beyond human ability to control. As King Hussein himself once remarked, “It is sad when you can see in advance how things are going to go, time and again, and you are helpless to prevent them.”
Bible prophecy has not ignored the modern-day kingdom of Jordan. And it reveals that despite genuine and sincere efforts toward peace in the region, a great crisis is yet to occur throughout the Middle East. As diplomats strive to head off a new explosion in the Middle East, forces beyond the power of responsible statesmen to control will propel much of the region-and the world-into a time of unparalleled chaos!
Moreover, the Bible reveals that the major threat will come not from within the region itself but from the outside. An outside power, Bible prophecy reveals, will intervene militarily in an attempt to impose its brand of peace on the strife-torn Middle East!
Longtime readers of The Plain Truth know that prophecy foretells a coming final rebirth of the ancient Roman Empire in Europe. This end-time confederation of 10 nations or groups of nations-to emerge just ahead-will be led by a powerful personality known in Bible language as the “beast” (Rev. 17). Write for our free booklet Who Is the Beast? for full details.
In the ancient prophecies of Daniel, the beast is known as the “king of the north.” The 11th chapter of the book of Daniel reveals that “at the time of the end” many nations and peoples of the Middle East will be overthrown by the intervention of this coming revival of the Roman Empire in the region (verses 40-43).
This is a clear prophecy for our day!
Notice: “He [the leader of this last end-time revival of the Roman Empire] shall enter also into the glorious land [the Holy Land], and many countries [in the Middle East] shall be overthrown … ” (verse 41).
Continuing: “He shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape” (verse 42).
Large segments of the Middle East will suffer occupation. Israeli and Arab alike will feel the sting of the beast’s military might!
But what of Jordan?
Notice the latter half of Daniel 11:41: ” … but these shall escape out of his [the beast’s] hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.”
In prophecy, the geographic areas of Edom, Moab and Ammon refer unmistakably to modern-day Jordan. Jordan, Daniel declares, will escape occupation by the beast power!
But the story does not end there. The prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, among others, provide further details. Here is what they reveal:
In the wake of intervention in the Middle East by the leader of this coming Roman Empire, the Palestinians and others in Jordan will make an understandable but crucial mistake. This mistake will far eclipse in its effects the tragic miscalculation of 1967, when Jordan entered the war against Israel despite urgent appeals by the United States and the State of Israel itself.
This future mistake will be to rejoice in the occupation, by the revived Roman Empire in Europe, of the city of Jerusalem.
It will be this rejoicing over the predicament of the State of Israel that will bring about the fulfillment of the prophecies of Ezekiel 25:3-11 once again. What happened to ancient Moab and Ammon will be repeated in modern Jordan. Much of Bible prophecy is dual. What anciently occurred was only a type of the final fulfillment in this closing age of human civilization.
This prophecy of Ezekiel reveals corrective punishment from God to be meted out by “men of the east”-a latter-day communist confederacy encompassing large portions of the Asian continent.
The prophet Amos also describes this coming tragedy in verses 13 to 15 of chapter 1. The prophet Jeremiah likewise provides a graphic account of this coming judgment (49:1-6). See also Zephaniah 2:8-10.
This prophesied move into Jordan by “men of the east” will provide Jordanians with a painful lesson in character. King Solomon of ancient Israel cautioned: “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth,
and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: lest the LORD see it, and it displease him … ” (Prov. 24:17-18).
Were the people of Jordan to heed Solomon’s words of warning in the tumultuous days that lie ahead, they could be spared the prophesied corrective punishments of God at the hands of the “men of the east.” As God himself declares: “If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them” (Jer. 18:8).
But even when people mistakenly choose to learn their lesson the hard way, there is still good news beyond the bad! God declares through Jeremiah, after enumerating the fearful calamities that are to befall this region: “But afterward I will restore the fortunes of the Ammonites … ” (49:6, RSV).
The prophesied return to this earth of Jesus Christ as Messiah will cut short the nightmarish calamities engulfing the Middle East -and the whole earth. He will forcefully put an end to warfare within and among nations. He will usher in a millennium (Rev. 20:4, 5) of peace and prosperity for peoples everywhere-including the children of Lot and other peoples who live in modern Jordan.
This seemingly unsolvable Middle East problem will at last be solved by the great God who knows what is best for all peoples!