[Published 10 February 2014]
Jordan is becoming increasingly unhappy at the role US Secretary of State John Kerry might be planning for it in his eagerly anticipated framework agreement designed to end the 130 years old Jewish-Arab conflict.
The Jordan Times reported on 28 January:
“Figures representing professional unions and political parties are planning to hold a national conference to “protect Jordan and Palestine and repulse Kerry’s peace plan”. And a number of lawmakers signed a memorandum to convene a special Lower House session to discuss Kerry’s controversial proposals.
Jordan’s main opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, issued a communiqué last week warning of an impending plan to liquidate the Palestinian cause, which, it said, threatens both Jordanians and Palestinians.
It said that the current regional situation will encourage the US and Israel to impose their conditions on the Palestinians and put pressure on Jordan.
One Islamist leader, Salem Al Falahat, told a local news website that while detailed information on Kerry’s proposals is scarce, it is clear that current negotiations will not serve the interests of Palestinians or Jordanians.”
Jordan’s central role in bringing Kerry’s push for peace to fruition arises from the following facts:
1. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Charter claims that “Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit.”
2. Jordan and Israel are the two successor States to the British Mandate—Jordan exercising sovereignty in 78% of the territory covered by the Mandate - and Israel in a further 17%.
3. Stuck between them is the West Bank—4% of the Mandate territory—which was:
(i) conquered and occupied by Transjordan in 1948 after having being called “Judea and Samaria” from biblical times until United Nations Resolution 181 (II) in 1947“West Bank” Arabs became “Jordanians” with Jordanian citizenship and passports between 1950 and 1988.
(ii) then renamed “the West Bank” after being unified with Transjordan in 1950 to create a new territorial entity renamed “Jordan”
(iii)lost to Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.
Abu Iyad—deputy chief and head of intelligence for the PLO - ranking second after Yasser Arafat in Fatah - the major faction within the PLO—told the Kuwaiti News Agency on 15 December 1989:
“You cannot make a distinction between a Jordanian and a Palestinian. It is true that we encourage unity between Arab peoples, but the relationship between Jordan and Palestine in particular is clearly distinctive; all those who tried in the past and are still trying to create divisions between the Jordanian and Palestinian people have failed. We indeed constitute one people…When the Palestinian state and unity is established…the Jordanian will be a Palestinian and the Palestinian a Jordanian”
Jordan’s Prince Hassan Bin Talal - an uncle of Jordan’s current King Abdullah II—succinctly summed up Jordan’s pivotal position in 1982:
“Small as Jordan is, our country is politically, socially, economically, militarily and historically inseparable from the Palestinian issue.”
Small as Jordan might be — Israel is much smaller - fitting into Jordan almost five times.
Jordan’s land mass could help resolve two thorny issues by:
1. Making land grants to the PLO to compensate it for land retained by Israel in the West BankKerry’s predecessor — Condoleezza Rice - had envisaged Jordan’s involvement in the long running negotiations — as the following extract from the WikiLeaks Palestine Papers makes clear:
2. Assisting in resettling Palestinian Arab refugees from other Arab countries.
“... negotiators tried to resolve disagreements by offering in earnest what, to some, might sound like outlandish suggestions. Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was the source of one such proposal during a meeting on July 30, 2008 at the State Department. Rice kicked off the session by asking for a progress report on the points of agreement between the parties. After a quick update from Qurei and Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni, the latter said that some major decisions had not been reached as far as how a future state of Palestine would look. “We need to know how it is going to work,” she said, “The Airport and Seaport.”
Addressing the Palestinians, Rice then dropped this bombshell: “[Y]our airspace is so small - put it in Jordan.” The Palestinian negotiators appeared shocked at the suggestion that they use a sovereign country’s airspace as their own. Just under Rice’s comment, the Palestinian note taker wrote in brackets: “Discussion on whether this is a joke or a real option. Tzipi Livni and Condoleezza Rice clearly think it is realistic as an option.”
Jordan’s likely inclusion in Kerry’s framework agreement has been raised by US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki and Jordan’s Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh in Lebanon’s Daily Star:
“... the only goal of the final status agreement is to bring peace and prosperity to not only the Israeli and the Palestinian people, but to the region,” adding that “throughout every point in the process the United States has been engaged in consultations with the government of Jordan.”
“Seeking to allay parliamentary fears, Judeh told lawmakers that Jordan, which shares the longest Arab border of 335 kilometers with Israel and the West Bank, had the right to “accept or reject” any point in the negotiations that does not bode well with its interests.”
Kerry appears to understand that Jordan — an integral part of the Jewish-Arab conflict since 1920 - is the lynch pin to achieving any solution.
Jordan is not jumping for joy at the prospect.