Wednesday, May 30, 2007

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.


At 7:58 PM, Blogger Hatem Abunimeh said...

I personally don't have an opinion on this particular subject matter because I really don't know whether it is a good idea or bad idea for Jordan and future Palestine to have federation or confederation. I suggest however that we put the issue through Plebiscite and let the people on both sides of the river decide for themselves if they want to join in a federation like or confederation. Similarly, in the highly unlikely remote possibility that the Palestinian get their independent state--Why do you think that they would want to have federation or confederation with Jordan?!. Do you see any Arab states having such a conjoining?! I think that the people need to be given an opportunity to decide for themselves about what is good and what is no good for them. So long as the politicians continue to exclude the people from the decision making process, the outcome will always be unpopular. Most of the Jordanian and the Palestinians have already experienced what is it like to be together 1948--1967 and what is it like to be separated from one another 1967 to present time. Can they reconcile what appears to be irreconcilable differences? I don't know, let the plebiscite be the determining factor;it will resolve the bewildering conundrum once and for all.

At 10:08 PM, Blogger Mohanned said...

I really don't know where we as jordanians come in this "formula"!!And I also don't know on behlaf of whom majali is acting? is it karak or whole jordan or only the majali family!!
It is our fault as jordanians that we allow such people to talk on our behalf as we are a bunch of ignorant nomads!!
Me personaly is agianst this whole idea, because it will put us in more trouble, we are now invloved in iraq,lebanon and soon with iran, we are making lots of enemies..
God bless the soul of king hussein!

At 11:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry Khallaf,
Another irrelevant rant

Fahed Al Khaytan praised Dr Owais in two occasions in his column within few months (the last on 30th of May). Doesn’t this affect the integrity of the writer who had wrote many important article on sensitive national issues. Are they related in the Jordanian sense of back scratching? Am I the only one who think that the man, Owais, is a farce? Or shall I just forget about Al Khaytan and file as another Fanek?

At 11:44 PM, Blogger Khalaf said...

Hatem: The plebecite can only take place after the establishment of a Palestinian state, for both political and logistical reasons. Even discussing a plebecite now is premature.

Mohanned: Agreed.

Anon: I think that Owais is OK, especially compared to the competition at other universities. To be honest, you haven't experienced bad until you have seen the previous administration at Yarmouk.

At 3:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I pretty much agree with everything you said. I think unity between Jordan and Palestine should be out of the question at this stage.

At 5:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


This is a nice well-referenced piece. It just fall off calling a spade, a spade. And I don’t blame you or yous. Why should the inhabitant of Jordan want a form of confederation with what remained of Palestine at any time. Even after the establishment of a so-called state. It happened in 1951 under very different circumstances and by a very different people and factions, and politico-religious affiliations. I know that that Jordan and the people of Jordan, whatever the sahheejeh claim, is open for various definitions. However, you and I and many others have no interest in such a solution. It is a solution for the Israelis and the Palestinian elite (including would be elitists like Dahlan) and not to the average Jordanian (men shatta el osoul wal manabet) and the west banker.


At 7:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoy your blog. Has the Jordanian government set a date yet for the parliamentary elections? Do Jordanians expect them to be held this year?

At 5:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Khalaf,

It is hard for me to believe that Majali initiated the whole project by himself without taking a green light from the Palace. It is possible but I see it very unlikely.

The prospect of peace between Israel and the Palestinian is almost impossible esepcially with the latest shift in power within the Palestinian society and the rise of Hamas.
It seems to me that the ferdation idea is gaining momentum both in the US and the EU; both are huge donors to the Kingdom. Now I truly believe as you said that the King thinks that this is a bad idea and I think too. The question remians : how much pressure Jordan can handle if the international community reached a point where they give up on the peace process?


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