With hopes fading for two-state solution, ‘Jordan is Palestine’ option may be best alternative
by: Asaf Romirowsky
Amid the unrest now sweeping the Middle East, Israeli government and security officials are quietly discussing an unusual strategy that would pass the Palestinians’ political future off to Jordan. With the odds of a negotiated two-state solution at an all-time low, former Defense Minister Moshe Arens, Knesset Member Arieh Eldad, and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin resurrected the “Jordan is Palestine” model for regional peace.
Israeli officials fear that a Palestinian Intifada could break out on both sides of the Jordan River, and they seek to make it as much a Jordanian problem as an Israeli one.
In February, Human Rights Watch, the world’s self-proclaimed defender of minority rights, produced a 60-page report entitled, “Stateless Again: Palestinian-Origin Jordanians Deprived of their Nationality.” The paper details how Jordan deprives its Palestinian citizens of West Bank origins their basic rights, such education and healthcare. The report received scant attention back then. But the problem of Jordanian Palestinians, amidst growing unrest in the Hashemite Kingdom, has put the issue back on the front burner.
Israeli analysts worry that if the Jordanian government is to become more representative, it is possible that the country’s 72% Palestinian population could effectively take control. Jordan, in effect, could become “Palestine.”
The notion of a Palestinian controlled polity in Jordan is not new. From the war of Israeli independence in 1948 through the Six-Day War in 1967, Israeli politicians on the Left and Right advanced a policy of “Jordan is Palestine.” While defending Israel from Arab aggression, they proposed that Jordan become the Palestinian homeland. Israeli officials proposed various scenarios for a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation that fused the East Bank and West Bank of the Jordan River under one administration.
However, it is not as simple as that. Dan Schueftan, author of A Jordanian Option, correctly noted in 1986 that such an arrangement would be dependent on Israeli-Jordanian relations and how the two parties view potential threats from the Palestinian populations in their midst.
Inseparable security needs
To be sure, in the years after the Six-Day War, the Jordanian monarchy was wary of the Palestinians. Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat challenged the sovereignty of the country in 1970. After that, the kingdom had blocked the flow of Palestinians from the West Bank into the East Bank in order to preserve the kingdom’s Hashemite political structure. To a certain extent, the Jordanians renounced all claims to the West Bank in 1988, backed the creation of the Palestinian Authority in the early 1990s, and then made peace with Israel in 1994 in an attempt to prevent further flooding of Palestinians into their country.
To a certain extent Jerusalem has long looked to the Hashemite monarchy to maintain stability and security on both sides of the river. Both Amman and Jerusalem, in fact, recognize that their security needs are inseparable. Jordan has benefited from the periods of relative quiet and prosperity in Israel. Accordingly, Jordanian security forces have been increasingly involved in the West Bank, where they conduct joint training sessions with Palestinian forces. It has been a win-win-win situation for Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians.
The problem now is that Jordan’s traditional power centers are unhappy with the rise of Palestinian influence in the country. Tribal leaders resent Jordan’s Queen Rania, born in Kuwait to a family with roots in the West Bank, for her vocal advocacy of the Palestinian cause. In fact, 36 tribal leaders recently published their objections to Rania’s position, fearing that it will accelerate a slow Palestinian takeover of the kingdom.
With hopes fading for a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, this seemingly far-flung notion may become the last, best option. The problem is that it could embolden Palestinian radical groups, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, which derive much of their power from disillusioned Palestinians in the West and East Banks. With the rise of such groups in Jordan, the peace agreement between Amman and Jerusalem would be in peril.
Nevertheless, as uncomfortable as it might be for Palestinians, Israelis and Jordanians to admit, the Jordanian option might be the best one they have.
Asaf Romirowsky is an adjunct scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former liaison officer from the Israeli Defense Forces to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
More Quotes About "Palestine"
"There is no such country as Palestine. 'Palestine' is a term the Zionists invented. There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria. 'Palestine' is alien to us. It is the Zionists who introduced it".
- Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, Syrian Arab leader to British Peel Commission, 1937 -
"There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not".
- Professor Philip Hitti, Arab historian, 1946 -
"It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but Southern Syria".
- Representant of Saudi Arabia at the United Nations, 1956 -
Concerning the Holy Land, the chairman of the Syrian Delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in February 1919 stated:
"The only Arab domination since the Conquest in 635 c.e. hardly lasted, as such, 22 years".
"There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent (valley of Jezreel, Galilea); not for thirty miles in either direction... One may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings. For the sort of solitude to make one dreary, come to Galilee... Nazareth is forlorn... Jericho lies a mouldering ruin... Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and humiliation... untenanted by any living creature... A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds... a silent, mournful expanse... a desolation... We never saw a human being on the whole route... Hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil had almost deserted the country... Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes... desolate and unlovely...".
- Mark Twain, "The Innocents Abroad", 1867 -
"In 1590 a 'simple English visitor' to Jerusalem wrote: 'Nothing there is to bescene but a little of the old walls, which is yet remayning and all the rest is grasse, mosse and weedes much like to a piece of rank or moist grounde'.".
- Gunner Edward Webbe, Palestine Exploration Fund,
Quarterly Statement, p. 86; de Haas, History, p. 338 -
"The land in Palestine is lacking in people to till its fertile soil".
- British archaeologist Thomas Shaw, mid-1700s -
"Palestine is a ruined and desolate land".
- Count Constantine François Volney, XVIII century French author and historian -
"The Arabs themselves cannot be considered but temporary residents. They pitched their tents in its grazing fields or built their places of refuge in its ruined cities. They created nothing in it. Since they were strangers to the land, they never became its masters. The desert wind that brought them hither could one day carry them away without their leaving behind them any sign of their passage through it".
- Comments by Christians concerning the Arabs in Palestine in the 1800s -
"Then we entered the hill district, and our path lay through the clattering bed of an ancient stream, whose brawling waters have rolled away into the past, along with the fierce and turbulent race who once inhabited these savage hills. There may have been cultivation here two thousand years ago. The mountains, or huge stony mounds environing this rough path, have level ridges all the way up to their summits; on these parallel ledges there is still some verdure and soil: when water flowed here, and the country was thronged with that extraordinary population, which, according to the Sacred Histories, was crowded into the region, these mountain steps may have been gardens and vineyards, such as we see now thriving along the hills of the Rhine. Now the district is quite deserted, and you ride among what seem to be so many petrified waterfalls. We saw no animals moving among the stony brakes; scarcely even a dozen little birds in the whole course of the ride".
- William Thackeray in "From Jaffa To Jerusalem", 1844 -
"The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is of a body of population".
- James Finn, British Consul in 1857 -
"The area was underpopulated and remained economically stagnant until the arrival of the first Zionist pioneers in the 1880's, who came to rebuild the Jewish land. The country had remained "The Holy Land" in the religious and historic consciousness of mankind, which associated it with the Bible and the history of the Jewish people. Jewish development of the country also attracted large numbers of other immigrants - both Jewish and Arab. The road leading from Gaza to the north was only a summer track suitable for transport by camels and carts... Houses were all of mud. No windows were anywhere to be seen... The plows used were of wood... The yields were very poor... The sanitary conditions in the village [Yabna] were horrible... Schools did not exist... The rate of infant mortality was very high... The western part, toward the sea, was almost a desert... The villages in this area were few and thinly populated. Many ruins of villages were scattered over the area, as owing to the prevalence of malaria, many villages were deserted by their inhabitants".
- The report of the British Royal Commission, 1913 -