Jordan and Israel have reportedly embarked on secret negotiations to end the impasse in the West Bank and Gaza according to Matthew Guttman of ABC News (3 May 2007).
If true, such negotiations might successfully conclude 17 years of failed diplomacy that has included;
(i) the Oslo fiasco conceived by Shimon Peres and Yossi Beilin and reluctantly adopted by Yitzchak Rabin,
(ii) Ehud Barak’s unprecedented concessions, supported by US President Bill Clinton but rejected by Yasser Arafat ,
(iii) Ariel Sharon’s evacuation of 8000 Jews from Gaza and parts of the West Bank,
(iv) Ehud Olmert’s stillborn plan to remove another 70000 Jews out of the West Bank at a cost of US$10 billion,
(v) the Saudi Peace Plan designed to remove all 400000 Jews from the West Bank and allow millions of Arabs to live in Israel,
(vi) The Geneva Peace Initiative and
(vii) US President George Bush’s Road Map promoting the creation of a second Arab State within the boundaries of former Palestine - backed by the United Nations, the European Union and Russia dubbed the Quartet
All of these initiatives have not brought peace and now have no value other than learning tools to instruct future negotiators on how not to commence or handle negotiations in the Middle East.
Jordan was the common denominator excluded from all of these failed processes. It was left out at its own insistence but the Quartet and Israeli negotiators must share the blame for allowing this to occur - virtually by default - and for the pathetic results that inevitably followed.
Any negotiations without Jordan were doomed to failure from the outset.
Jordan, after all, is the Arab State created, built on and occupying 77% of Palestine whose exclusively Arab population is no different in ethnicity, religion, language or cultural beliefs to the Arabs living in the West Bank, Gaza and Israel.
Hundreds of thousands are related by familial and clan ties stretching across the Jordan River which runs between Jordan and the West Bank. All live within an easy one to two hours drive of each other.
Jordan is the country that occupied the West Bank from 1948-1967. It only ceded its claims to sovereignty in the West Bank in 1988 after being pressured by the Arab League and the Palestine Liberation Organisation to do so.
Jordan annexed the West Bank in 1950 which was recognised by Britain and Pakistan at that time.
Jordan’s rulers, not the PLO, have successfully preserved almost four fifths of Palestine as an exclusively Arab State. Not one Jew lives there today and the death penalty awaits any one found selling land to Jews. This is no mean feat given that Jordan was originally designated by the League of Nations in 1922 to be part of the territory in which the national home for the Jews was to be reconstituted under the Mandate for Palestine granted to Great Britain.
Contrast this to the remaining 23% of Palestine where 17% - today called Israel - has a population that is 80% Jewish and 20% Arab whilst the remaining 6% - today called the West Bank - has a population that is 80% Arab and 20% Jewish .
Yet the fiction has been created that the Arabs of Palestine lack a State and have been stripped of any rights to self determination in Palestine.
The fact is that Jordan and Israel are the successor sovereign States in former Palestine together exercising sovereignty in 94% of Palestine whilst sovereignty in the remaining 6% still remains unresolved and unallocated after 59 years.
Commonsense rejects the idea of creating a second Arab or, for that matter, a second Jewish State in this remaining 6% of Palestine - an area about the size of Delaware or just two thirds of Cyprus.
The obvious solution is to redraw the boundary between Jordan and Israel so that the heavily populated Jewish areas of the West Bank become part of Israel and the heavily populated Arab areas of the West Bank (together possibly with Gaza) become part of Jordan.
This is certainly attainable as Jordan and Israel are parties to a peace treaty signed in 1994, which they both have observed in good faith, with mutual dignity and respect despite some strains in their relationship over the years.
Jordan and Israel could be confidently expected to realign the border to ensure that very few Jews or Arabs would be faced with deciding whether to move from their existing residences or stay put as part of a minority population. Compensation would be paid if they decided to move and become part of the majority population on the other side of the new border.
Guidelines to deal with controversial issues such as water, refugees and Jerusalem are already set out in the Jordan - Israel Peace Treaty.
Unceasing and unsuccessful efforts to sign a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinian Authority have led nowhere in the last 17 years and threaten to continue to do so ad infinitum whilst the fiction writers continue to believe that a new State between Jordan and Israel is the answer to the conflict between Jews and Arabs.
How many more Jews and Arabs need to be killed and maimed in the pursuit of a solution that has not got even the slightest chance of success?
Perhaps the following words from American composer Cole Porter’s song - “I’ve got you under my skin” - should resonate in the ears of Jordanian and Israeli negotiators as their secret talks proceed :
“Don’t you know you fool, you never can win
Use your mentality, wake up to reality”
That reality is that two peoples, the Jews and the Arabs, need two States, not three States, in Palestine.
At last Jordan and Israel may finally be singing the same song. Everyone interested in ending the 130 years conflict between the Jews and Arabs - including the Quartet -should join in.