“You know its just one small step from legacy to lame duck”- Bill Clinton
President George Bush, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas are clearing their desks as they prepare to vacate their positions of power and influence - now having virtually assumed caretaker roles as lame ducks until their replacements are known within the next few months.
Their hoped for legacy - the creation of a new Arab State in the West Bank and Gaza - lies in tatters despite six years of intense diplomatic efforts by America, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia to bring President Bush’s vision to reality.
Any expectation that such a State can ever emerge in the future by their successors continuing the current fatally flawed negotiations is pure fantasy and totally unattainable.
The main reason for this conclusion is the continuing sixty years old Arab demand calling for millions of former Arab residents and their descendants to be allowed to settle in Israel. It is the same hurdle that brought President Clinton’s Camp David negotiations crashing to the ground in 2000.
This demand - if conceded by Israel - would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state. It has become so ingrained in the Arab psyche that no Arab leader or group - even Hamas - could agree to its reversal and hope to survive the Arab anger, condemnation and retribution that would inevitably follow.
Mayhem would occur worldwide if this loss of face - and about face - ever eventuated.
The responses in the Arab world to the Muhammad cartoons and the reaction that followed Pope Benedict denigrating Islam by quoting from an article written in 1391 by a Byzantine Emperor - Manuel II Paleologus - indicate the level - and intensity - of the violence that could be expected.
With this bleak- but not unexpected - outcome for President Bush’s Roadmap, the question of what is to happen next in the West Bank is now beginning to exercise everyone’s mind.
Veiled Arab threats to jettison the Palestinian Authority and move for a bi-national state is a “no brainer” and will be given short shrift by Israel.
Separation of Jews and Arabs living in the West Bank by dividing sovereignty in the West Bank between Jordan and Israel appears to be the only face saving option for the Arabs that has any chance of working.
Very few Jews or Arabs currently living in the West Bank would have to consider leaving their homes or businesses under such a proposal. Those that might be affected could be offered the alternatives of compensation to move or staying put and acquiring the citizenship of their domicile.
This solution could be achieved reasonably quickly by the relatively simple expedient of redrawing the border between Israel and Jordan. These two countries have enjoyed a signed sealed and delivered peace treaty since 1994 - something that has been impossible to achieve between Israel and the Palestinian Authority during the last 15 years.
This possible solution has long been resisted and viewed with great misapprehension by Jordan - which occupied the entire West Bank from 1948-1967 and only finally abandoned any claims to the area in 1988.
Jordan has been ardently promoting President Bush’s Roadmap in the hope that Jordan could remain quarantined from playing any future role in the West Bank.
However the imminent collapse of the Roadmap negotiations has become the driver that has now prompted Jordan to recently re-engage in secret discussions with Hamas - which is outlawed in Jordan.
The absence of any disapproval by America and the European Union to Jordan entering into such a dialogue with a prescribed terrorist organization appears to signal tacit approval to these discussions taking place as the prelude to Jordan moving back into the West Bank.
Hamas is no lame duck. It is a rooster in full flight believing in its own invincibility and not stopping for a moment to think that it might one day become a feather duster.
Seeking undertakings and assurances from Hamas that will allow Jordan to assume sovereignty in the West Bank free of Hamas interference and intimidation is a prudent first step for Jordan to take. Consent could also guarantee the fear of any possible threats of reprisal to overthrow the ruling Hashemite dynasty of King Abdullah in Jordan.
King Abdullah remained tight lipped about possible Jordanian intervention in the West Bank in the following exchange between himself and a reporter from the French newspaper L’Express this week:
Q: Is there another option than the creation of a Palestinian state?
A: No, I don’t think so. The only acceptable solution in the eyes of the Muslims and the Arabs means an understanding on Jerusalem; the understanding on refugees and the understanding for a homeland for the Palestinians. Sometimes some people evoke the “Jordanian option”, the confederation kind. But nothing will happen as long as the Palestinians do not have a state.
Simply allowing nothing to happen after collapse of the Roadmap would be a disastrous outcome for the Arabs as it would result in Israel being left in full and unfettered control of the West Bank.
The freeze on new Jewish settlements would be ended. Expansion could then take place there on State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes as authorised by the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and Article 80 of the United Nations Charter - subject only to the civil and religious rights of the Arab community living there not being prejudiced.
The Hashemites have preserved 77% of Palestine as the independent Arab state of Jordan - free of any Jews - for the last 62 years. It is that legacy which should convince Hamas to support Jordan’s return to the Arab populated areas of the West Bank
That would be welcome news indeed for the whole world - but don’t bet the bank on Hamas consenting to this happening. In the case of refusal, Jordan would then need to go it alone and commence negotiations with Israel to allocate sovereignty of the West Bank between their respective countries.
Their past histories have shown that neither Israel nor Jordan is afraid to take hard decisions when necessary. Lame ducks they’re certainly not.