Jordan’s King Abdullah and Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert certainly had a lot to talk about when Mr Olmert made a surprise visit to Amman yesterday for a two hour working lunch with the King.
High on their agenda would have been the disastrous performance of PLO Chairman and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas this past week after he had left the White House “bitterly disappointed” and empty handed following his meeting with President George Bush.
Statements made after that visit by Abbas and his advisors have made it glaringly obvious that the idea of a new Arab State between Jordan and Israel is rapidly disappearing down the kitchen sink.
This was reflected in the following statement made by Abbas to Reuters on April 26:
“We have discussed all the final issues with the Americans in detail. I told them we do not want them to present their own ideas for a solution because it will be difficult for us to reject them—and it would be even more difficult to accept them,”
The Americans’ ideas for a solution are certainly not a secret. Any suggestion by Abbas that they are is ingenuous to say the least.
President Bush laid out those ideas on 14 April 2004 making it quite clear that the proposed new Arab state could not realistically be expected to be established in all of the West Bank and Gaza.
Yet on April 27 Reuters further reported “a senior aide” to Abbas remarking - as though this was something new and entirely unexpected:
“ …Israel wants to annex settlement blocs, and so in short, what we are being offered is much less than the 1967 borders”
In the same report Abbas himself was quoted as saying:
“I am concerned ...we could be offered less land. I asked Mr Bush during our talks to publicly reiterate his position for the creation of a state on lands occupied in 1967,”
Abbas needs to be jolted back to reality. Apart from the fact that this statement completely contradicts what he said just the day before, the idea that the new State should be established on 100% of the West Bank and Gaza has been Mr Abbas’ demand and that of his predecessor Yasser Arafat for the last 40 years - never President Bush’s position.
The President is savvy enough to realise that you can’t expect 450000 Jews to abandon their homes and livelihoods after living there for more than 40 years and that there has to be some division of the West Bank with Israel.
In persisting with his intransigent demand to the contrary Abbas is ensuring that this “all or nothing” approach on borders is a recipe for total failure of President Bush’s Road Map.
That Abbas intends to persist with this nonsensical position was confirmed just two days later when his top negotiator Ahmed Qureia angrily rejected a proposed map presented to him by Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni showing the areas of the West Bank that Israel proposed annexing.
In doing so Qureia said according to a report in Israelinsider:
“On principle, we know what our rights are and will fight for them using all means and ways. We reject any demand, any position, or any Israeli statement regarding territory outside the 1967 borders.”
Apart from the fact that there are no 1967 borders - only armistice lines - all of these statements fly in the face of the outcome that President Bush has laid down as being able to be achieved if his Road Map is to succeed - and which have been quite clear and unambiguous to Abbas since 2004.
Abbas is now clearly swimming against the tide - pressuring President Bush to change his position to save Abbas’s hide in an effort to suppress the rise of Hamas as it steadily erodes Abbas’s authority and threatens a takeover in the West Bank.
Abbas knows that to back down on the so- called “moderate” Palestinian position - a state in 100% of the West Bank and Gaza - could sound his death knell. Hamas would have great delight in branding him a traitor, ignore any such deal and call for his head as the price for selling the Palestinians out.
Loss of face is usually not tolerated or forgiven in the Arab world. Assassination is often the punishment meted out to those who do not toe the line.
Fortunately however there have been a handful of Arabs with the courage and wisdom of the late Anwar Sadat, the late King Hussein and now his son the present King Abdullah to recognise the reality of Israel and its right to exist, to stop arguing over postage sized pieces of land and to get on with life.
Abbas looks as though he does not fit into the mould of those brave leaders.
Judged by the above statements it is clear that Abbas has decided to tough it out knowing full well his demands will not be accepted - giving him the opportunity to then leave the negotiations with his head supposedly still held high saying he tried the peaceful route but Israel refused to play ball.
He hopes then to triumphantly return into the welcoming arms of Hamas and join with them in taking the violent route to pursue the common objective which both the PLO and Hamas have always shared - the destruction of Israel. He may find out that in doing so he has bitten off more than he can chew.
Having to digest Abbas’s unpalatable conduct this past week and its possible impact on the region would certainly have not whetted the appetites of the King and Mr Olmert for the lunch they were served. They must surely realise that crunch time is now rapidly approaching for both of them.
They need to draw up a plan for joint action to protect the national interests of both Jordan and Israel to ensure that the West Bank does not become a bloodbath that could spill over into either or both countries if Abbas does not show real intestinal fortitude and lower his demands.
Their message to Abbas should be clear and uncompromising - swallow your pride, eat a bit of humble pie and share some of it with Israel - or end up getting your just desserts.