[Published 8 July 2011]
Jordan’s King Abdullah is clearly worried about the future direction of his country - if developments over recent weeks are any indication.
His Majesty told the Washington Post on 16 June:
“2011 will be, I think, a very bad year for peace, Although we will continue to try to bring both sides to the table, I am the most pessimistic I have been in 11 years.”
Whilst the Palestinian Authority refuses to resume negotiations with Israel - any hope of peacefully resolving sovereignty in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza will deteriorate and the King‘s pessimism will become self-fulfilling.
The absence of any such negotiations impacts on Jordan (known as Transjordan until 1950) because of its following historic, geographic and demographic ties with the West Bank and East Jerusalem:
1. Jordan comprises 78% of former Palestine - whilst Israel comprises 17%. The remaining 5% comprises the West Bank and Gaza.
2. Jordan’s population is overwhelmingly comprised of Arabs (or their descendants) who fled the invasion of Palestine by six Arab armies (including Jordan) in 1948.
3. Jordan was the last Arab occupier of the West Bank and East Jerusalem from 1948-1967 - driving out all the Jews who had lived there prior to 1948.
4. In 1950 a joint parliament comprised equally of members from the West Bank and Transjordan voted to unify the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Transjordan into one state which was renamed Jordan - and it remained so unified until the loss of the West Bank to Israel in the 1967 Six Day War. Only Great Britain and Pakistan recognized such union but it flourished unchallenged for 17 years.
5. West Bank Arab residents became Jordanian citizens and enjoyed that status from 1950 until 1988 - when Jordan finally relinquished all claims to the West Bank - but not its custodianship of the holy sites in East Jerusalem.
6. Jordan has kept its territorial claims alive to the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a result of clause 2 [A] of Annex 1 (a) of the peace treaty it signed with Israel in 1994. Sovereignty in all or part of the West Bank and East Jerusalem could be claimed by Jordan at any time under this clause - with Israel‘s concurrence - notwithstanding Jordan’s earlier repudiation in 1988. Any renewed claim would not result in a breach of the terms of Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel.
King Abdullah’s pessimism has no doubt been also heightened as Jordan has become increasingly caught up in the turbulence spreading throughout Arab countries in the region.
Thousands of Jordanians demonstrated on 1 July in the cities of Irbid, Maan, Karak and Tafileh, in addition to the capital, Amman, demanding transparency and an end to corruption. The number of participants has been increasing in recent weeks, organizers and witnesses have reportedly said, and the slogans have taken on a notable harshness.
Unrest of any kind cannot be accepted kindly by King Abdullah. It could well grow into a call for the removal of the Hashemite ruling dynasty in Jordan and its replacement by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) - as was last attempted by Yasser Arafat in 1970 when thousands of deaths and injuries occurred and the PLO was expelled to Lebanon.
The PLO claim to Jordan still remains clearly expressed in unequivocal terms in the PLO Charter which states in Clause 2:
“Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate is an indivisible territorial unit.”
Jordan remained part of the British Mandate from 1920-1946 until Great Britain purported to grant it independence in apparent breach of Clause 5 of the Mandate which provided:
“The Mandatory shall be responsible for seeing that no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of the Government of any foreign Power. “
Statements made by Arab political leaders including the late Yasser Arafat and the late King Hussein of Jordan acknowledge that Jordan is part of Palestine.
PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas however was quick to assure Jordan he had no intention of a PLO takeover when he met a delegation of Jordanian parliamentarians in Ramallah on 6 July.
Abbas reiterated the Palestinian people would turn down any proposal that involves “resettling Palestinian refugees at the expense of Jordan”, stressing that Jordan is for Jordanians and Palestine is for Palestinians.
Given the clear terms of Clause 2 of the PLO Charter - and the composition of Jordan’s population - Abbas’ statement certainly makes intriguing reading.
Abbas appears to have been motivated in giving this assurance hoping to change Jordan’s view - as expressed by a senior Jordanian official on 29 June to UAE based al-Bayan - that Jordan would vote against recognition of a Palestinian Arab state scheduled to be put before the UN General Assembly in September.
The official issued this further warning:
“Jordan’s top national interests will be in danger if the Palestinian Authority declares statehood unilaterally – especially in everything related to the issue of refugees, water, Jerusalem, and the borders,”
No doubt the Abbas assurance was hoping to change Jordan’s view - which could have disastrous consequences for Abbas should he seek United Nations recognition in September.
The Hashemites have been around far too long to fall for this sudden PLO show of affection.
The Hashemites have astutely ruled in Jordan for over 90 years and have preserved Jordan as an independent and exclusively Arab State in 78% of Palestine since 1946.
The Hashemites - together with Israel - have been the stable and constant political influences in the region which has otherwise known nothing but turmoil since the League of Nations unanimously endorsed the reconstitution of the Jewish National Home in Palestine in 1922.
Should Abbas refuse to return to the negotiating table then Jordan remains the only Arab interlocutor able to negotiate the future sovereignty of the West Bank and East Jerusalem with Israel.
As the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine and the signatories to a peace agreement that has held fast for the last 17 years - Jordan and Israel have the credentials and the clout to peacefully resolve sovereignty of the remaining 5% of Palestine that still remains unallocated between them - and to guarantee that any agreement between them is honored and enforced.
Believing any Abbas assurance that the PLO does not covet a takeover of Jordan is tantamount to King Abdullah accepting the kiss of death