Palestine – Israeli Palestinians or Palestinian Jordanians?
By: David Singer
Former Chief Palestinian Authority negotiator Ahmed Qureia first raised the possibility of Israeli residents living in the West Bank becoming Palestinian citizens in any new State created between Jordan and Israel as an answer to forced removal from their existing homes and transfer to Israel.
In an interview in Haaretz on 26 May 2009 the following exchange took place:
â€œ Qureia: “Negotiating the annexation of Ariel to Israel is a waste of time. Ma’aleh Adumim and Givat Ze’ev must also be part of Palestine. Any agreement must guarantee our territorial contiguity; leave historical sites in our hands, especially Jerusalem, as well as natural resources, especially water.”
Question: Do you believe Israel would agree to evacuate Ma’aleh Adumim’s 35,000 residents?
Qureia: “[Former U.S. secretary of state] Condoleezza Rice told me she understood our position about Ariel but that Ma’aleh Adumim was a different matter. I told her, and Livni, that those residents of Ma’aleh Adumim or Ariel who would rather stay in their homes could live under Palestinian rule and law, just like the Israeli Arabs who live among you. They could hold Palestinian and Israeli nationalities. If they want it – welcome.
This theme was taken up by Palestinian Authority Acting Prime Minister Salam Fayyad at the Aspen Instituteâ€™s Ideas Festival in July when he was asked by R. James Woolsey – former director of Central Intelligence under President Clinton – whether the same rights would be available to Jewish citizens of a Palestinian state that were available to the over one million Arab citizens of Israel – such as freedom of religion and speech and the right to vote in elections.
Woolsey also wanted to know whether Jews would be able to sleep at night without worrying that someone might kick their doors down and kill them
“I’m not someone who will say that they would or should be treated differently than Israeli Arabs are treated in Israel. In fact, the kind of state that we want to have, that we aspire to have, is one that would definitely espouse high values of tolerance, coexistence, mutual respect and deference to all cultures, religions. No discrimination whatsoever, on any basis whatsoever. Jews, to the extent they choose to stay and live in the state of Palestine, will enjoy those rights and certainly will not enjoy any less rights than Israeli Arabs enjoy now in the state of Israel.”
This is an argument that would hold little attraction to Israel or the Jewish residents of the West Bank.
The reasons are manifold and include the following:
1. Jews could never be assured that their security would be protected from terrorist attacks.
2. The history of the conflict indicates that wherever possible Jews and Arabs should be separated to avoid clashes between their respective populations. Israelâ€™s successful integration of 1.5 million Arabs into its population as Israeli citizens could not possibly be repeated in the West Bank. The baggage of hatred between the two populations engendered by the PLO Covenant and the Hamas Covenant would prove insurmountable.
3. The Jewish community could be held to ransom by any assorted rag and tag groups to meet Arab demands for millions of Arabs to be allowed to emigrate to Israel, for Arab prisoners to be released from Israeli jails or for any other reason – even simple extortion of money.
4. The Palestinian Authority has been trumpeting the removal of all Jewish residents living in the West Bank for the last 40 years and has legislated for the death penalty for anyone selling land to Jews. It would hardly be seen as a convincing change of heart if these racist attitudes were suddenly abandoned.
However the parallel proposition that the Arab residents of the West Bank acquire Jordanian citizenship has become increasingly more attractive as the â€œtwo state solutionâ€ continues to founder after 16 years of failed diplomatic efforts to achieve a breakthrough.
The West Bank and Gazan Arabs are considered to be oppressed and victimised communities who have been deprived of the freedom of movement, ability to access goods and services, export their own products as well as exercise their rights as full citizens of a sovereign Arab state. This loss of dignity will continue as the two state solution evaporates and will need to be addressed in some way if there is to be peaceful co-existence between the Arab and Jewish communities in the West Bank.
These problems can be solved if the international boundary between Israel and Jordan is redrawn so that the heavily populated Arab areas of the West Bank become part of Jordan and the heavily populated Jewish areas of the West Bank become part of Israel.
The reasons for this occurring are compelling:
1. Jordan is 77% of Mandatory Palestine and will extend its borders to include about another 3% of former Palestine if this solution is adopted.
2. Jordan – as the last Arab State to occupy the West Bank between 1948-1967 – will resume its historical role as the Arab successor State to the Mandate in allocating sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza between it and the other successor state to the Mandate – the Jewish State of Israel.
3. The Arab residents of the West Bank will resume their status as Jordanian citizens which they enjoyed until 1988 and will be granted Jordanian passports entitling them to the same political rights as the current Jordanian population.
4. The Arab residents on both sides of the Jordan River will be reunited into one political entity – a relationship which has been acknowledged and recognised by both Jordanian and Palestinian leaders such as the late King Hussein, Crown Prince Hassan, the late Yasser Arafat and Abu Iyad.
Jordanian resistance to such an idea might be anticipated, since Jordan has been very wary of attempts to remove the ruling Hashemite regime and replace it with a revolutionary style Government.
However events in Gaza demonstrate the utter folly of repeating the same coup in Jordan.
Jordan needs to be given security and financial guarantees by the Quartet – America, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations – to enter into negotiations with Israel to divide sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza between them and possibly Egypt.
Given Israel already enjoys signed peace agreements with both Jordan and Egypt and all are already sovereign States – the negotiations could be successfully concluded in a very short space of time.
Such a solution would be preferable to any form of autonomy since it would free the West Bank and Gazan Arabs from Israeli domination and control and allow the West Bank and Gazan Arabs – and indeed all Palestinian Arabs – the right to self determination for which they have been agitating since 1967.
In the absence of such a resolution the future looks very bleak for both Arabs and Jews.