Jordan’s King Abdullah was very edgy this week as he sought to terminate any discussion of the role Jordan will have to ultimately play in ending the standoff caused by the pending demise of President Bush’s Roadmap to create a new Arab state between Israel and Jordan.
Fired up by an unconfirmed report that Republican presumptive nominee John McCain intended to declare the Kingdom of Jordan as the Palestinian State, King Abdullah gave an interview to the Lebanese newspaper As -Safir in which he defiantly proclaimed:
“This country is here to stay. Jordan is Jordan and Palestine is Palestine”
Abdullah’s shorthand attempt to deny that the future of the West Bank has anything to do with Jordan flies in the face of the history, geography and demography of both Jordan and the West Bank and the strong ties that bind these two land masses and their Arab populations.
King Abdullah’s great grandfather - the late King Abdullah I - and also his own father - the late King Hussein - had said exactly the opposite to justify Jordan’s occupation of the West Bank.
King Abdullah I had emphasised the territorial connection between Jordan and the West Bank when addressing a meeting of the Arab League in Cairo on 12 April 1948:
“Palestine and Transjordan (now called Jordan - author) are one, for Palestine is the coastline and Transjordan the hinterland of the same country.”
King Hussein had expressed the familial connections between their respective Arab populations in the Jordanian National Assembly on 2 February 1972:
“There is no family on the East Bank of the River (Jordan) that does not have relatives on the West Bank - no family in the West that does not have branches in the East”
Marwan al Hamoud, member of the Jordanian National Consultative Council and former Minister of Agriculture told the Jordanian political journal Al Rai on 24 September 1980:
“Jordan is just not another Arab State with regard to Palestine, but rather, Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan in terms of territory, national identity, sufferings, hopes and aspirations, both day and night.”
King Abdullah’s attempt to re-write the history book this week was driven by his deep concern to thwart any possible move by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) or any other group such as the Moslem Brotherhood to overthrow the King and assume control in Jordan following the inevitable breakdown and inconclusive end of the Roadmap negotiations.
The PLO had tried to overthrow King Abdullah’s father in 1970 from within Jordan - but was routed and driven out to Lebanon. The thought that another coup might possibly be contemplated from territory less than one hour’s drive away from Abdullah’s palace in Amman has never been far from Hashemite thinking - especially since the Arab League made the PLO the sole spokesman for the Palestinian Arabs in 1974 in place of Jordan.
That singular decision has proved to be a monumental error and has brought nothing but untold misery and suffering for the beleaguered Arab populations of the West Bank and Gaza.
The King is now hanging suspended in mid-air by a thread. There is no realistic outcome to successfully concluding the Roadmap negotiations with the PLO. The PLO demands that it be granted sovereignty in all of the West Bank, that 450000 Jews living there be expelled and that millions of Arabs be allowed to live in Israel are non-negotiable and cannot be possibly accepted by Israel.
Basem Sakkhijha - an analyst with the Jordanian newspaper Al-Dustor - this week summed up the blind alley into which these negotiations have already led:
“The project of Palestinian independence led by the Palestine Liberation Organisation, was marked by failure and has reached a dead end. The only alternative out of this historical conflict is for Jordan to have a role in the future of the West Bank”
Labib Kamhawi - a Jordanian economist and political analyst - was reported this week in the United Arab Emirates National Newspaper as saying that:
“Jordan had never really relinquished its ambition for a serious role in the West Bank”.
Jordan occupied the West Bank between 1948-1967. Its administrative ties with the West Bank have never been totally severed since Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War.
Kamhawi concluded that:
“Jordan cannot turn its back and say “I do not want to be involved.’”
Kamhawi is right. It is only a matter of time before Jordan does become involved. Jordan will have to step into the void left by the collapse of the Roadmap negotiations and bring the West Bank’s Arab population under its jurisdiction and authority. Jordan’s population will demand this action be undertaken to allow family reunion to occur on both sides of the Jordan River. No one - Arab or Jew - will need to leave his existing home or business for this to happen.
Israel and Jordan must redraw and mutually adjust their borders and assume sovereign rule in the West Bank within the agreed areas allocated to each of them. New - and meaningful - negotiations will be relatively easy to conclude when their end objective is not the creation of another Arab state between Israel and Jordan but the division of sovereignty of a postage sized piece of land between the two successor States in former Palestine.
This will continue the process of completing the division of sovereignty in former Palestine - first begun between the Arabs and the Jews in 1920. When concluded, this will leave the issue of sovereignty in just 1% of Palestine - the Gaza Strip - to be finally resolved.
King Abdullah should be proud of the incredible efforts his great grandfather, his father and himself have made to secure 78% of Palestine as a sovereign independent and exclusively Arab State in an area originally proposed by the League of Nations as being part of the site within which the Jewish National Home was to be reconstituted.
Denying Jordan’s parentage and his own patrilineal heritage is the surest way for King Abdullah to increase - not decrease - Jordan’s jitters. He will certainly have to watch his back if he continues to do so.