“Mr Churchill, if you were my husband I’d poison your tea“. - Lady Nancy Astor
“And if you were my wife I would drink it” Winston Churchill
Jordan’s King Abdullah has offered American President Obama the proverbial cup of poisoned tea in His Majesty’s address to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on 24 April.
His Majesty sought to induce President Obama to take the first sip of the poisoned chalice when claiming:
“Every country in the Middle East, and perhaps even the world, sees the United States as being the key to achieving peace ….Now is the time for the United States to lead, to ensure no more time is wasted. Failing to act means that we will all lose. The status quo is simply untenable. The dangers are too many and too big to ignore.”
There needed to be in His Majesty’s view:
“An effective peace plan for 2009 and beyond - a plan of negotiations that can achieve concrete results quickly and stop the drift towards confrontation. I say plan, not process, for a reason. The very term “peace process“ is an “artifact of history“. When it was coined in the 1970’s, the idea was to break the decades of deadlock by taking an incremental approach. ..the old idea has seen its day. We have reached the time for the end -game, in which all sides can win"
In King Abdullah’s further view;
“ … the groundwork is there. The two-state settlement has been agreed by the parties and the entire international community… The path for peace can go only through the two-state solution. No other solution can offer the justice that people demand and respect. And no other solution can give people a reason to take risks peace requires.”
King Abdullah’s address is both deficient in its analysis yet encouraging in its prescription.
He has failed to recognize that Israel and Jordan - not the United States - hold the key to achieving peace for the following salient and compelling reasons:
1. Jordan comprises 77% of former Palestine
2. Jordan’s population overwhelmingly comprises Arabs born in Eastern or Western Palestine
3. Jordan and Israel are the two successor states in former Palestine exercising sovereignty over 94% of that territory. It is only in the West Bank and Gaza (6% of former Palestine) that sovereignty remains unallocated between Jews or Arabs.
King Abdullah’s view that the two state solution - the creation of a new sovereign Arab state between Israel and Jordan - is the only path to peace must be seriously questioned.
This proposed solution has been attempted and has failed - despite the most intensive efforts ever seen in international diplomacy over the last sixteen years. Led initially by the United States between 1993-2003 and thereafter by the Quartet - the United States ,the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations - this proposal has failed to achieve any breakthrough of even minimal proportions during the last sixteen years.
It also failed when rejected by the Arabs in 1937 and 1947. It could have happened at any time between 1948-1967 but was never even contemplated or pursued by the Arab League.
This dead horse has well and truly become an artefact of history along with the “peace process“ - and no amount of wishful thinking can bring it back to life. Events on the ground have made such a proposal impossible to achieve without massive human displacement and humanitarian suffering.
Three states - one Jewish and two Arab - in former Palestine - is not going to happen. To countenance that proposal would certainly invite possible claims to establish a second Jewish State in the West Bank or a third Arab State in Gaza. One can imagine the level of international support such proposals would receive.
The West Bank at the present time is no man's land - the Wild West of the Middle East - where no one exercises internationally recognized sovereignty.
However a plan of negotiations that can resolve sovereignty and achieve concrete results within the framework of a two state solution - one Jewish, one Arab ,- in former Palestine - without necessitating one person leaving his current home - should be encouraged and promoted as a welcome step in the right direction.
Jordan and Israel’s Peace Treaty signed in 1994 and their status as the Jewish and Arab successor States in Palestine provide the vehicle - and legal justification - for establishing such a plan of negotiations that can achieve results to end the “untenable status quo” in the West Bank by the simple expedient of redrawing the existing international boundary between Jordan and Israel.
In accordance with King Abdullah’s ideas, such a plan of negotiations can achieve concrete results quickly - involving as they would face to face negotiations between these two key players and immediately adjoining neighbours in the region for the last 60 years.
Viewed as a border dispute between two peaceful neighbours, the resolution of the current conflict takes on an entirely different perspective.
Perhaps creative American leadership - involving offers of diplomatic, military and financial assistance - can encourage such negotiations being undertaken between Jordan and Israel.
But America would do well to leave the conduct of any such negotiations to the chairmanship of someone else like the Secretary General of the United Nations.
America needs some time out from the tortuous peace processes that have engaged successive American Presidents with very little to show - except egg on their faces.
Winston Churchill - the principal architect for Jordan and Israel’s existence today because of his pivotal role in the creation of the Mandate for Palestine by the League of Nations in 1922 - might well be fearful that both Israel and Jordan would be eager to poison his tea today for creating the hostile environment in which they both currently find themselves. He might just drink it down to escape their protestations at what has subsequently occurred over the last 90 years.
President Obama is not yet in that position. He should quietly decline the proffered cup of tea from King Abdullah.
Instead he should suggest King Abdullah invite Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over to the Royal Palace for a quiet chat over a cup of tea to see if they can agree on this idea to give real meaning to King Abdullah’s remark to his Washington audience:
“It is time for a partnership, courage and action”
Netanyahu’s taster should still take a slurp first. You never know who you can trust these days.