Abdullah Bristles As Palestine Fizzles
By: David Singer
Jordanâ€™s King Abdullah is clearly feeling the pressure as the spotlight increasingly focuses on the role Jordan will have to play in resolving the allocation of sovereignty in the West Bank between Jews and Arabs.
This became very clear in the interview given by the King to Fareed Zakaria, in Davos Switzerland during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting on 29 January.
The two-state solution – designed to create a new Arab State between Israel, Jordan and Egypt in the West Bank and Gaza – has comprehensively failed despite the most intensive diplomatic efforts to achieve such an outcome during the last 17 years
The root cause of failure has been the Arab Leagueâ€™s refusal to budge from its 43 years old negotiating position that demands:
1. the ceding by Israel of sovereignty in 100% of the West Bank and Gaza and
2. Israel accepting millions of Arabs into the Jewish State
Offers by Israel to cede sovereignty in excess of 90% of the West Bank – which houses 95% of the Arab population living there – were rejected by the Arabs in 2001 and 2008.
Israel is not prepared to cede any further territory in the West Bank for security reasons. This area also houses the majority of the 500000 Jewish population who currently live in the West Bank.
Israelâ€™s evacuation of Gaza in 2005 has proved disastrous with Hamas seizing control from the Palestinian Authority in 2007 – effectively dividing the proposed new State into two separately controlled fiefdoms.
The failure of President Obama to get Israel and the Palestinian Authority to resume negotiations for the last twelve months – which assuredly wonâ€™t go anywhere even if they were to be resumed – has sent power brokers scurrying to find alternatives to the two-state solution.
King Abdullah in his above interview expressed his own fears when stating:
â€œActually, this is probably the first time where I am somewhat pessimisticâ€
His gloomy mood was further emphasised when he said:
â€œâ€¦sooner or later there is an invisible line in the sand that we will cross that will be clear to everybody, whether or not the viability of a two-state solution is there. And I hope we havenâ€™t crossed that yet but when â€“or God forbid â€“we do cross that line, then I think we doom the Middle East and the region to many decades of instability.â€
With the deepest respect to His Majesty – that invisible line was crossed when the Palestinian Authority rejected the offer made by Israel in the negotiations conducted in 2008.
Israelâ€™s chief negotiator in 2008 – Udi Dekel – spelt out the reasons for that failure when he told Haâ€™Aretz on 25 January in a revealing interview:
“The Palestinian approach was in principle the demand of 100 percent of their rights from 1967. The practical aspect interested them less. They are not willing to discuss any further compromise,” he said. “We tried to build scenarios, some of them were imaginary, about specific compromises, but we found the Palestinians taking an approach of ‘all or nothing’.”
Israelâ€™s former National Security Advisor – Giora Eiland – has recently called for Jordan to replace the Palestinian Authority as Israelâ€™s negotiating partner.
This has clearly upset King Abdullah who said in the above interview:
â€œThere are pushes by certain elements of the Israeli government to say Jordan takes a role in the West Bank. That is never going to work and we have to be very clear that Jordan absolutely does not want to have anything to do with the West Bank.
All we will be doing is replacing Israeli military with Jordanian military. The Palestinians do not want that. They want to have their own statehood.
And again, what type of West Bank are we talking about? We are talking about a viable entity. What I think these people are offering to try and pull Jordan in is really nothing that would create enough statehood or make the Palestinians feel that they have something thatâ€™s called their home. So Jordan â€“ Iâ€™m on the record; weâ€™ve said this so many times â€“we will not have any role in the West Bank.â€
King Abdullah is in a state of denial and needs to reverse his negative stance for the following reasons:
1. Jordan was the last Arab occupier of the West Bank between 1948-1967 when it could have – but failed – to give the Palestinians their own statehood in 100% of that territory after the Jews living there had been driven out followingJordanâ€™s conquest of the West Bank in the 1948 War of Independence. Jordanâ€™s return to the West Bank would substantially restore the status quo existing in 1967.
2. Jordan extended its sovereignty, and consequently all applicable domestic law, to the West Bank and East Jerusalem in April 1950. Reinstatement – where necessary – could be easily achieved.
3. West Bank Arabs were Jordanian nationals between 1950 – 1988 – until their nationality was withdrawn by Jordan. Jordanian nationality could now be as easily reinstated by Jordanian legislative decree.
4. Jordan ceded its claims to sovereignty in the West Bank in 1988 in favour of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) – which itself had previously ceded any claims to â€œexercise regionalsovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordanâ€ under Article 24 of the 1964 Charter of the PLO. These semantic name games can again be easily reversed.
5. Jordan – together with Israel – comprise the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine possessing sovereignty between them in 94% of former Palestine. Only 6% of Palestine – the West Bank and Gaza – remains unallocated between them.
6. Jordanâ€™s return to the West Bank can immediately free its Arab residents from Israeli occupation and control, give them Jordanian nationality, a home and a State -Jordan.
7. Jordanâ€™s 1994 peace treaty with Israel provides mechanisms for peacefully settling outstanding issues such as water, refugees and Jerusalem.
King Abdullah needs to heed the following advice given by him in his interview with Fareed Zakaria:
â€œDonâ€™t take no for an answer. There are members of my society that, when I say â€˜Letâ€™s do somethingâ€™, thereâ€™s a â€“ I wish I could translate it into Englishâ€“but itâ€™s â€˜Tskâ€™. The Arabs will know what I mean when I say â€˜Letâ€™s move this sector of societyâ€™ â€“â€˜Tsk, thatâ€™s never going to happen. We canâ€™t find the moneyâ€™. And I think that has been the major challenge that Iâ€™ve had over the past 10 years. It is not to be intimidated by the â€˜Tskâ€™ that I get from society.”
King Abdullah must show real leadership at this time of crisis and ready himself for negotiations with Israel – for nothing else has a chance of succeeding. This will avert the doom and instability predicted by the King following the collapse of the two-state solution.
Now is certainly not the time for King Abdullah to say â€œTskâ€. Please think again Your Majesty.