Making an offer we can't accept
Meetings of peace activists from Israel, Palestine and Jordan have been recently organized by former prime minister, Abdulsalam Majali. The meetings have been labeled as being simple “call for peace”. However, a number of reports suggest the there are talks about establishing a confederation between Jordan and Palestine, as a way of breaking the impasse in the peace process. According to Jamil Nimri, the idea is to make an agreement without implementing it before Palestinian independence. However, such an agreement prior independence would make the concept of independence mute.
King Hussein decided to disengage from the unity with the West Bank in 1988, after dragging his feet on the issue since 1974, when the Arab leaders, under PLO pressure decided that the PLO was the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”. The Palestinians wanted to be able to exercise their national identity without Jordanian hegemony. Since then, the PLO signed the Oslo peace agreement and Jordan signed a peace agreement with the Israelis. The Oslo deal has not gone as hoped, and the situation in the Palestinian lands is going down hill.
The official Jordanian position, stated by the king numerous times, is that no unity agreement with the Palestinians can be contemplated before they set up the independent state. Talk about setting up a confederation before a Palestinian state is established is in direct contradiction with the official Jordanian stand.
Most people were never impressed by Majali’s negotiating abilities, and believe that Jordan was shortchanged with regard to water rights and financial compensation in the agreement with Israel. The mere initiation of the idea by Jordan is a sign of weakness. In this article, a pro Israeli analyst suggests that Jordan is doomed if such a deal is not implemented. Talk about starting off badly. The other parties should be begging us to accept such a deal, rather than us peddling it. Another example of Majali’s negotiating prowess.
Majali defends the peace deal with Israel. The most important aspect, according to him, is that Israel through the agreement has given up on the idea of considering Jordan an alternative homeland to the Palestinian people. Since this is the biggest achievement, why would Jordan want to jeopardize it? What does unity with the Palestinians without Palestine mean? Is it not opening the door for creating an alternative homeland for the Palestinians in Jordan?
Of course, right wing Israeli politicians would love such a development. Likud leader, Benjamin Netanyahu has said that such a unity would “enhance the peace process”. Specifically, he wants the Jordanian military to ensure security in Palestinian “cities and streets”. In essence, he wants us to do the dirty work in exchange for sovereignty of “cities and streets”. Israeli settlement behavior over the last decades has proven that Israel is not interested in relinquishing control over the West Bank, and thus the idea that there is any willingness to allow the creation of a viable Palestinian state or even to withdraw in favor of Jordanian sovereignty is simply misguided.
Given the dire security and economic situation in Palestine, nobody can blame the Palestinians for wanting to break out of the situation they are in. However, I doubt that the consensus needed for smooth transition of power can be brokered. In effect we are being asked to get involved in a Palestinian civil war, which would more likely than not spill over to Jordan if we become a party to it. If the Palestinians want to change their ambitions from establishing a state into becoming citizens of an established state, it is more reasonable to demand that Israel incorporate the land and people into it. They can then build whatever settlements they want in their own territory, and the Palestinians would become full citizens in their ancestral homeland.
In reality, Jordan has nothing to gain from trying to incorporate the Palestinian cities in the West Bank into a confederation. These areas are poor in resources, and rebuilding their infrastructure would cost a fortune. Moreover, the Palestinians are an angry and wounded people. Jordan would become the focus of their anger rather than where this anger truly belongs. Promises of massive financial aid and compensation ring hollow to most everybody, as little was seen by anybody of this aid after the peace treaty in 1994. In short, such a deal requires us to bear the cost of Palestinian turmoil without any obvious advantages. While some columnists have taken upon themselves defending Majali’s vision, most observers firmly reject the idea. The king is right in rejecting any talk of unity before the establishment of a Palestinian state.