[Published 13 May 2011]
Any further negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are dead and buried.
This is the only conclusion to be drawn from the recent signing of a reconciliation agreement between rival Palestinian factions - Hamas and Fatah - intended to end their fratricidal conflict that has claimed the lives of hundreds of the West Bank and Gaza’s civilian Arab populations and wounded and traumatized thousands of others over the last four years.
Israel will refuse to accept any offer to negotiate or treat with any new Palestinian Government formed as a result of such reconciliation - at least whilst
1.Hamas continues to demand the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel and its replacement with an Islamic State of Palestine and
(i) Complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence.
(ii) Opposing any political solution offered as an alternative to demolishing the Zionist occupation in Palestine, as well as any project intended to liquidate the Palestinian case or impose any international mandate on its people.
Indeed violent confrontation between Hamas and Fatah can be anticipated as they each attempt to implement the terms of their very vague and open ended agreement for the purposes of advancing and entrenching their own power-seeking agendas at the expense of the other.
One would imagine that had reconciliation really been the goal:
1. the mutual release of political prisoners held by each faction would have already occurred together with
2. an easing of bans on political expression by members of each faction within the respective area the other faction currently controls.
That this has not already happened is perhaps the clearest indication that the will to reconcile is not sincerely held.
Meantime Israel’s Prime Minister - Benjamin Netanyahu - is shortly to embark on a visit to meet President Obama - when Netanyahu is expected to lay out his thoughts on the future direction to be taken to resolve the issue of sovereignty in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
These three areas comprise the remaining 5% of Palestine still unallocated between Jews and Arabs after 17 years of ineffective and ineffectual negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Hamas - or a reconciled Fatah-Hamas Government - could acquire sovereignty in Gaza tomorrow and constitute it as a 22rd independent Arab State by a simple declaration of independence - but any expectation of that happening is a forlorn hope. Neither entity would be prepared to pay the political price that the establishment of such an independent second Arab State in former Palestine - in addition to Jordan - might mean for
1. their jointly shared objective to eradicate the State of Israel and
2. their demand that Israel vacate all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem won from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War.
Any hope of returning Jordan to the status quo it enjoyed in 1967 as occupier of the West Bank and East Jerusalem or allocating it sovereignty in any part of those areas having regard to the demographic changes over the last 43 years - remain the only two possible negotiating avenues that can now be possibly explored.
Either would involve the introduction of Jordan to replace the Palestinian Authority as Israel’s negotiating partner to determine whether either outcome can be peacefully achieved.
Jordan will not readily acquiesce to being placed in this negotiating spotlight.
However the following circumstances now exist that might help bring these negotiations about - if sufficient American and European Union pressure is brought to bear on Jordan to do so:
1. The Hashemite regime in Jordan faces serious challenges to continuing its 90 year rule in Jordan - such as Mubarak in Egypt, Gadaffi in Libya and Assad in Syria have had to face.
2. Jordan’s economy continues to struggle to cope with the demands of its increasingly restless population. Jordan’s woes have been compounded by repeated interruptions in the pipeline delivering Egyptian natural gas, which has forced it to ration electricity and increase its import bill.
It is in the interest of America and the European Union to ensure the survival of a stable Hashemite regime in Jordan and the maintenance of the 1994 peace treaty signed between Israel and Jordan.
Providing guarantees to protect the monarchy and financial support to overcome Jordan’s economic woes could well prove to be the catalysts necessary to attract Jordan to take up where the Palestinian Authority has clearly failed.
It is ironic that the following statement made by Netanyahu at the United Nations in 1984 still resonates and is of particular relevance in 2011:
"Clearly, in Eastern and Western Palestine, there are only two peoples, the Arabs and the Jews. Just as clearly, there are only two states in that area, Jordan and Israel. The Arab State of Jordan, containing some three million Arabs, does not allow a single Jew to live there. It also contains 4/5 of the territory originally allocated by this body’s predecessor, the League of Nations, for the Jewish National Home. The other State, Israel, has a population of over four million, of which one sixth is Arab. It contains less than 1/5 of the territory originally allocated to the Jews under the Mandate…. It cannot be said, therefore, that the Arabs of Palestine are lacking a state of their own. The demand for a second Palestinian Arab State in Western Palestine, and a 22nd Arab State in the world, is merely the latest attempt to push Israel back into the hopelessly vulnerable armistice lines of 1949."
The attempt to create that second Palestinian Arab State in Western Palestine has clearly failed and is not going to occur through direct negotiations between Israel and any Arab interlocutor. However expanding the boundaries of Jordan in direct negotiations with Israel has reasonable prospects of success
Netanyahu would do well to draw Obama’s attention to his 1984 prophetic statement when they meet next week. Certainly had the UN acted on this statement - the sorry saga of death, injury and trauma suffered by both Jews and Arabs over the last 27 years could have been avoided.
The only hope of avoiding further conflict and bloodshed is to bring Jordan to the negotiating table. The sooner this dawns on President Obama the sooner the prospect of resolving sovereignty in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is likely to be achieved.