King Abdullah’s recent interview in the Wall Street Journal indicates the extent of His Majesty’s concern at the continuing failure to achieve the slightest breakthrough in creating a new Arab state between Jordan, Israel and Egypt following 17 years of failed international diplomacy to bring such a new state into existence.
The King is clearly worried that other solutions will need to be looked at if:
•the lives of the West Bank Arab population are to be transformed,
•there is to be any resolution on the future status of Jerusalem and
•the refugee status of those former Arab residents of Palestine now living in Syria and Lebanon is ended.
King Abdullah understands that any such solutions must involve Jordan and that Jordan cannot sit on the sidelines any longer. He is not at all happy with facing the challenges that will throw the spotlight on Jordan and the role it will have to play if the current status quo is to be changed
Jordan has allowed Israel to shoulder the sole responsibility for changing the status quo of the West Bank since ceding any claims to the West Bank in 1988 - and has happily sat back and let Israel bear the international odium for failing to do so - although :
1.Jordan comprises 77% of the former territory of Palestine and together with Israel constitute the two successor States to the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine
2.Jordan unified and incorporated the West Bank into the state boundaries of Jordan between 1948-1967 with the acquiescence and consent of the West Bank Arab population and granted Jordanian citizenship to its residents
3.Jordan refused to negotiate with Israel to return to the status quo existing at 6 June 1967 after the conclusion of the Six Day War when not one Jew lived in the West Bank.
4.The overwhelming majority of Jordan’s residents were born in - or are descendants of - Arabs originating from that part of former Palestine west of the Jordan River that is today called Israel and the West Bank.
King Abdullah’s concerns are particularly frank and very revealing as indicated by his following comments during the above interview:
“the status quo is not acceptable; what will happen is that we will continue to go around in circles until the conflict erupts, and there will be suffering by peoples because there will be a war.”Jordan surely now has a responsibility to prevent any such war or suffering occurring and must embark on a diplomatic path to avoid these outcomes .
The way to achieve this is for Jordan to negotiate and divide the future sovereignty of the West Bank with Israel thereby freeing the majority of the existing Arab population from continuing Israeli control whilst making them citizens of Jordan once again .
“Jerusalem specifically engages Jordan because we are the custodians of the Muslim and Christian holy places and this is a flash point that goes beyond Jordanian-Israeli relations.”
As such custodians Jordan has an obligation to negotiate with Israel on Jordan’s role in the future of those holy places - and can do so under the framework of the signed existing 1993 peace treaty concluded between Israel and Jordan which acknowledges Jordan’s role in this regard.
King Abdullah however seeks to instill a climate of fear into the West Bank’s existing Arab population and to totally mislead and misrepresent what Jordan’s return to the West Bank will entail for the refugees in Syria and Lebanon when he states:
“In America specifically, you hear, well, why doesn’t Jordan take the Palestinians into our country? … That would create tremendous instability. So if the Israelis want to push the Palestinians into Jordan, I don’t see how that makes sense and how the international community will accept that because that would be an exodus of 1.8 million Palestinians from their homes into Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.”
Negotiations between Jordan and Israel on the future status of the West Bank need not involve one Arab having to pack up and leave his current residence or business in the West Bank, He will stay where he currently is with Jordanian citizenship in the overwhelming majority of cases.
Where the West Bank Arab population falls within the expanded borders of Greater Israel - those Arabs affected can be offered Israeli citizenship or compensation to move to the other side of the new international boundary between Israel and Jordan if that is their wish. A similar option will be afforded to those West Bank Jews finding themselves within the boundaries of Greater Jordan.
Those refugees living in Syria and Lebanon can be offered the alternatives of absorption and citizenship in Syria or Lebanon or offered financial compensation to move and settle within the expanded borders of Greater Jordan and being granted Jordanian citizenship. Their miserable existence as stateless refugees will be ended after 62 years of interminable hardship and suffering.
These arrangements may not end the Arab-Jewish conflict but will certainly bring about a major change in the existing status quo and hopefully avert the consequences of war and suffering predicted by King Abdullah.
The King can continue to sit on the sidelines and criticize and deprecate. He will be committing a gross error of judgment if he does so.
It could ultimately see an attempt to overthrow his ruling Hashemite regime in Jordan - as was attempted in 1970 by the PLO but ultimately failed. The King is already jittery at the thought of such a possibility.
International financial aid and international military assistance should be offered as inducements to Jordan to assist its re-entry into the West Bank once again - coupled with a mutual defense pact between Israel and Jordan to prevent any attempted takeover of Jordan by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Islamic Brotherhood or Islamic Jihad.
Jordan must be ruing the day in 1967 when it decided to join in the Six Day War in defiance of Israel’s request not to do so - and lost the then Jew-free West Bank and East Jerusalem as a result.
Now is the time for Jordan to make amends for that decision. The sooner it does so - the sooner the world might be able to focus and concentrate its efforts on resolving far more serious issues involving human and political rights in places such as Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Haiti, Thailand, Sri Lanka and North Korea.