Vol. 5, No. 1 July 19, 2005
For the first time in Arab diplomatic history, the Jordanians drafted a peace proposal in March 2005 calling for normalization of relations with Israel before the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. King Abdullah’s proposal omits past Arab preconditions to peace with Israel, such as a return to the 1949 Armistice lines and repatriation of Palestinian refugees. Arab League delegates reported that at least 13 of the 22 Arab countries expressed initial support for the Jordanian proposal.
In an unexpected last-minute switch, former Jordanian monarch King Hussein passed the throne to his oldest son Abdullah, who had married the Palestinian Rania, instead of the kingdom going to his full brother, Prince Hassan. Abdullah’s Palestinian family pedigree has served him well among Palestinians in Jordan.
More intensified consultation between the PA and Jordan since 2004 reflects the growing concern that widespread chaos in the West Bank threatens the continuation of the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority. As a result, some prominent West Bank Palestinians requested that Jordan send security forces to the West Bank to help establish law and order. King Abdullah has agreed to send several thousand members of the Jordanian-commanded Palestinian Badr Brigade, currently comprised of Palestinian refugees of the 1967 war who are part of the Jordan-based Palestine Liberation Army.
There are close family ties between West Bank towns such as Nablus and Hebron and East Bank towns such as Salt and Karak. It was King Hussein himself who used to say in the 1950s and 1960s that “Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan.” The political roots of the links between the East and West Banks actually predate Jordan’s annexation of the West Bank after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Jordan was formally part of Britain’s Mandate over Palestine until March 1946, when it gained its independence.
A Palestinian-Jordanian confederation of some variety seems to be the most natural political alternative from historical, cultural and ethnic standpoints. The idea should also be reconsidered by American policy-makers, for whom a viable and contiguous Palestinian state is a stated policy goal.
Jordan Calls for Normalizing Relations with Israel Prior to Resolving the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
Jordanian King Abdullah’s March 2005 proposal to the Arab League calling for normalization of relations with Israel before the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict represents a reenergizing of Amman’s peace-making role, as well as an about-face in Jordan’s acquiescent posture toward the Palestinian issue during the Oslo peace process of 1993-2000. Moreover, Abdullah’s and Jordanian Foreign Minister Hani al-Mulki’s calls for a “regional approach” to Middle East peace-making along the lines of the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference indicate an understanding of the failure of Oslo’s bilateral approach to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and suggests a willingness to employ a broader and perhaps more creative approach to solve the conflict.1
In this regard, King Abdullah’s approval of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s request to send the Jordanian-based Badr Brigade, which is part of the Palestine Liberation Army under the command of the Jordanian military, to help restore order in parts of the crime-ridden West Bank may represent the most significant sign of Jordanian reengagement in the West Bank since former King Hussein formally severed legal and administrative links there in July 1988.
Jordan’s divorce from the West Bank (with the exception of its religious ties to Jerusalem) came after several years of intense efforts by the Hashemite kingdom and the PLO to reach an agreement on a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation in 1985-86. While agreement was reached in principle in February 1985, the talks collapsed one year later.2
King Abdullah’s current “Jordan First” (al-Urdunn Awalan) political and economic reform program includes a proposal to decentralize Amman’s political control and rezone the kingdom into northern, central, and southern governates in a move intended to further enfranchise Jordan’s Palestinian majority in the hope of strengthening their evolving Jordanian national identity.3 Palestinians in Jordan have generally been positively predisposed to the young Abdullah, whose wife, Rania, is a Palestinian from the West Bank city of Tulkarm.
While there are no indications that Jordan is interested in re-annexing the West Bank, reflecting the former “Jordanian option” that was on the table until the failure of the London Conference idea in 1987,4 possibilities do exist for other security, economic, and even political arrangements between Jordan and an independent Palestinian entity. Jordan’s new decentralized federalist approach to the East Bank may, under certain circumstances, have implications for the West Bank’s political future as well, in view of Abbas’s failure to stop Palestinian terror, crime, and chaos, and to implement long-promised institutional reforms. Whether Abbas can control Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups, that also pose a potential threat to Jordan, is still an open question with critical implications for the Hashemite kingdom.
At the same time, a profound debate is once again emerging among some Palestinian leaders regarding a possible Palestinian-Jordanian reengagement (without prejudging whether the relationship will be federal or confederal in nature). As Palestinian publisher Hanna Seniora noted recently, “the current weakened prospects for a two-state solution force us to revisit the possibility of a confederation.”5 There is also wider understanding among Palestinians that the PA’s massive, institutionalized corruption has seriously harmed Palestinian prospects for independence.
New Signals from Amman?
King Abdullah’s proposal to the Arab League represents a shift in Amman’s posture in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. For the first time in Arab diplomatic history, the Jordanians drafted a peace proposal that omits past Arab preconditions to peace with Israel, such as the demand that Israel return to the 1949 Armistice lines and repatriate Palestinian refugees to Israel. In a March 7 interview with France 2 television, Abdullah explained the proposal’s greater flexibility: “The real price is Israelis getting peace from Arab states from Morocco to Oman. Should we understand the fears of others, problems might be settled.”6
Notably, Abdullah’s proposal called for a settlement with Israel based on “the principle of land for peace and the 1991 Madrid peace conference.” Madrid, in contrast to the subsequent Oslo process with the PLO, featured a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation and specifically did not call for Israel to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians as a precondition to initiating reconciliation with the Arab world.7
Jordan’s Ambassador to Israel, Dr. Ma’ruf al-Bakhit, reinforced King Abdullah’s peace strategy in a March 2005 interview, saying the initiative “talks of comprehensive peace – not Israeli-Palestinian peace. I believe as a person that it is not the Palestinians that hold the key for the security of Israel – it is the Arab world.”8 Al-Bakhit added, “the paradigm of a two-state solution (Palestine and Israel) does not bring about stability. We can go for that but from there the confrontation will continue.”9
Arab League Secretary General Amr Musa and a number of Arab League members rejected King Abdullah’s proposal as an unacceptable alternative to the Saudi peace initiative of 2002 that required a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders as a precondition to normalization of relations with the Arab world. Yet Arab League delegates reported that at least 13 of the 22 Arab countries expressed initial support for the Jordanian proposal, despite Palestinian criticism that Jordan was making grave concessions.10 While King Abdullah did not participate in this year’s Arab summit due to “prior commitments,” the king had reason to believe that his far-reaching recommendation would meet with considerable success in view of the desire by North African countries to end Egypt’s leadership in the League.
At pre-summit deliberations in Algiers, Jordanian Foreign Minister Hani al-Mulki had complained about the failure of Arab nations to adapt to changing times,” reportedly saying to several Arab ministers, “Arabs cannot read history well and are led by their emotion, not by reason.”11 It may be no coincidence that King Abdullah’s proposal followed his meeting with President George W. Bush earlier that week. Foreign Minister al-Mulki said, following the Arab League meeting, that he tried to get Arab states to accept the proposal, arguing that “they are not making concessions to Israel but to reality.”12
Professor Asher Susser has noted that, historically, it was always easier to travel from east to west across the Jordan River than from the southern to the northern parts of the East Bank. Thus, there are close family ties between West Bank towns such as Nablus and Hebron and East Bank towns such as Salt and Karak. As Susser points out, it was King Hussein himself who used to say in the 1950s and 1960s that “Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan.”13 Thus, the political roots of the links between the East and West Banks actually predate Jordan’s annexation of the West Bank after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. Jordan was formally part of Britain’s Mandate over Palestine until March 1946, when it gained its independence.
A change in the line of succession to the Hashemite throne also seems to reflect the kingdom’s sensitivity to its Palestinian majority. It has been suggested that King Abdullah’s surprise decision earlier this year to strip his younger half brother Prince Hamza of his role as crown prince and replace him with the expected future appointment of Abdullah’s ten-year-old son Hussein, whose mother is the Palestinian Rania, would enhance Abdullah’s popularity among Palestinians.14
According to some Washington Arab affairs experts, the same reasoning led to the late King Hussein’s unexpected last-minute switch that passed the throne to his oldest son Abdullah, who had married the Palestinian Rania, instead of the kingdom going to his full brother, Prince Hassan. King Abdullah’s Palestinian family pedigree has served him well among Palestinians in Jordan, whose particularly Jordanian identity Abdullah is committed to enhance.15
Abdullah’s new decentralization plan for Jordan is a far reaching move to enfranchise Jordan’s Palestinian majority and may also represent the foundation of a political infrastructure for future cooperation with the West Bank. In April 2005, Abdullah established a new governmental body to draft legislation distributing lawmaking authority among future municipal parliaments in the northern, southern, and central districts. In a televised January 2005 speech, Abdullah explained that the kingdom would have a number of development areas or regions with “local councils elected by the people who would set the priorities of their respective areas.”16 Abdullah’s emphasis of the need to “expand the base of public participation in the political, economic, social, and administrative development of Jordan” can also be understood as a reference to the beginning of a Jordanian federal system.
However, Abdullah’s efforts to construct a new “Jordanian” national identity has also created a “built in” resistance to reengage with the West Bank among Jordanians both in government circles and among the Palestinian elites in Amman who control much of the economic power and financial wealth. Many among the empowered elites argue that Jordan is in the throes of a post-ideological revolution that is defined by high technology, Internet, and Westernization. In no small measure, Jordanians also want to move away from the Palestinian historical narrative and create a Jordanian identity that is free of the psychological and historical baggage of 1948, that is still a defining element in the identity of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians.17
Yet, Abdullah also faces the dilemma of growing chaos in the West Bank, whose instability is perceived by Jordan as potentially threatening. There is still a widespread fear in Jordan that instability in the West Bank and Israel’s construction of the West Bank security barrier could trigger a massive Palestinian migration eastward. This has forced Amman to consider playing a greater role in helping to resolve the Palestinian issue.
Thus, Jordanian Ambassador al-Bakhit recently discussed the resettling of Palestinian refugees currently living in Jordan: “We shall give them the right to choose: you came here when there was a unity between Jordan and Palestine. Now there is a Palestinian state. You have been enjoying your full citizenship rights. This is the right time to make the choice if you want to go back (to Palestine). We cannot force them. It is not good for Israel and the region to conclude a peace with some of the Palestinians. Will they not establish a new PLO, if they are unhappy? We want to ensure that any agreement will be accepted by the majority. We are aiming at historical reconciliation – not a political settlement.”18
New Regional Geopolitical Conditions Reenergize the Possibility of a Jordanian-Led Regional Solution
Signs of a possible Jordanian reengagement in the West Bank must be seen in the context of new regional geopolitical conditions, particularly the U.S.’s policy of no tolerance for state support for terror coupled with democratic reform in the Middle East. Moreover, the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, the death of Yasser Arafat in 2004, the election of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in January 2005, and Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip have also collectively enhanced the conditions for more direct Jordanian influence on the Palestinian issue.
The toppling of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has cast Jordan as a more central player on the regional political stage. Prior to the fall of Saddam Hussein, Jordan’s geopolitical role was largely limited by its identity as a buffer state between Iraq and Israel. Moreover, Jordan has been well aware that Israel has served as the guarantor of the kingdom’s survival against a possible Syrian invasion from the north or an Iraqi assault from the east.19
However, the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, subsequent American and European pressure on Syria to roll back its support for radical Islamic terror, and Saudi Arabia’s preoccupation with a growing internal al-Qaeda threat have opened up an opportunity for Jordan to influence developments in Iraq and play a more direct role in the West Bank as well.20 Amman is recognized as the Arab Middle East’s most stable major city, one that serves as an important center for Iraqis, Lebanese, Syrians, West Bankers, Turks, and Egyptians alike.
The death of Arafat and the election of Mahmoud Abbas also marks a new era in Jordanian-Palestinian relations. Arafat had sidelined Jordan throughout the Oslo years and undermined the kingdom’s special role as guardian of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. Abbas, on the other hand, keeps close ties to King Abdullah and the top echelons of the Jordanian government. He is a frequent visitor to Amman and has demonstrated a public interest in a reengagement with Jordan in several spheres.
The Renewed Palestinian Debate over a Confederation with Jordan
More intensified consultation between the PA and Jordan since 2004 reflects the growing concern that widespread chaos in the West Bank threatens the continuation of the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority. Palestinians continue to be victimized daily by armed gangs that rule the streets, engaging in theft, extortion, and street warfare.21
As a result, some prominent West Bank Palestinians requested that Jordan send security forces to the West Bank to help establish law and order. King Abdullah has agreed to send several thousand members of the Jordanian-commanded Palestinian Badr Brigade, currently comprised of Palestinian refugees of the 1967 war who are part of the Jordan-based Palestine Liberation Army.22 However, Israel opposes this in part due to concerns that the Badr Brigade would not solve Palestinian security problems since the PA lacks a stable security apparatus to supervise the Jordanian force.23
Some in Israel saw the Badr proposal as reminiscent of the failed Oslo process which led to the deployment of a hostile armed PLO presence in the territories under the command of Arafat. Formally, the Badr Brigade was one of four brigades of the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) established by the PLO in various Arab countries (including the Ain Jalut Brigade in Egypt, the Qadissya Brigade in Iraq, the Hittin and Yarmuk Brigades in Syria, and the Badr Brigade in Jordan). Over time, however, the PLO lost control as these brigades came under the sway of their host countries.
On a political level, the idea of a reengagement with Jordan is not foreign to Palestinian leaders. The Palestinian National Council approved a resolution proposing a Palestinian-Jordanian federation in 1984. In February 11, 1985, Arafat and King Hussein reached an oral agreement on a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation. However, it remained unsigned.24 Since 2004, some Palestinian academics, as well, have been discussing ideas for a renewed bilateral relationship with their Jordanian counterparts.25
Jordan’s Ongoing Relationship with the West Bank Since Its 1988 Disengagement
Jordan’s publicly announced disengagement from the West Bank in July 1988 was understood by most in the international community to represent not only the end of the Hashemite kingdom’s official administrative and legal roles there, but also the termination of a Jordanian role in any final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. However, Jordan never intended to abandon its connection with the West Bank entirely. Jordan’s deep-rooted geopolitical stake in the Palestinian question, in addition to economic, social, and family links between the East and West Banks, would be too strong for Hussein to abandon altogether.26 King Hussein explained at the time that he cut links with the West Bank in response to “the wishes of the PLO, West Bankers, and the Arab states.”27 However, he sought to ensure that Jordan’s interests would be maintained in any future peace agreement and added that Jordan remained committed to “Arab unity in the future.”28 In fact, even after Jordan’s 1988 disengagement, the kingdom continued to issue new Jordanian passports and renew old ones for West Bankers, only without the previous rights to citizenship.
Jordan’s 1988 disengagement from the West Bank was primarily a defensive move in reaction to the 1987 intifada in the territories, which Hussein feared might spread to Jordan. However, according to an American diplomat with close personal ties to Hussein, the king was also confident that the local PLO leadership would be more flexible on final status borders with Israel, a move that would save Jordan the humiliation in the Arab world of making concessions to Israel in any final status agreement.29
The return of Arafat to Gaza in July 1994 and the takeover of the West Bank by the Tunis-based PLO effectively sidelined Jordan from playing any role as a peace broker, notwithstanding the full Jordanian-Israeli peace treaty that was signed in October 1994. In fact, King Hussein was reportedly furious at the signing of the Oslo accords, fearing that Jordan would be undermined by the importation of Arafat and his PLO lieutenants from Tunis. According to a senior Israeli diplomat who was in Amman following the Oslo signing, Hussein and Rabin got into a shouting match in the king’s palace in Amman in December 1993. Hussein reportedly scolded Rabin, saying, “Do you want to get me killed?”30 Hussein repaired his ties with Rabin, but not with his foreign minister, Shimon Peres, who was regarded as too pro-Arafat.
At the same time, King Hussein still struggled to assert the Hashemites’ special role in Jerusalem as guardian of the Muslim Waqf administration of Muslim holy sites in the ancient Temple Mount compound (with his Hashemite lineage, King Abdullah II is believed to be the 43rd generation direct descendent of the Prophet Mohammed). Israel reinforced Jordan’s role in Jerusalem at a Washington summit held just months before Jordan and Israel signed their 1994 peace treaty.31 Notably, the Washington Declaration was negotiated by Rabin alone, without Peres’s involvement.
However, in 1995, Arafat carried out a “putsch” of moderate pro-Jordanian Waqf officials on the Temple Mount, appointing Sheikh Iqrima Sabri as mufti of Jerusalem, who quickly overshadowed the Jordanian Waqf appointee, Adnan Husseini. Sabri delivered weekly vitriolic sermons against Israel and the United States, including a widely quoted prayer prior to the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. for “Allah to paint the walls of the White House black.” A popular myth on the Palestinian street was that Sabri’s prayers were answered on 9/11.32
Arafat also inflamed Muslim-Jewish tensions over Jerusalem’s holy sites by making them the pretext for several major violent confrontations with Israel, including the 1996 Temple Mount tunnel riots and the 2000 Palestinian uprising. The uprising, orchestrated by Arafat to galvanize Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim fury at Israel for “defiling the Muslim holy sites,” sparked riots among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza that Arafat had intended to spill over to Amman and other Arab capitals.33
Since 2003, however, Jordan has publicly restored its special role in Jerusalem, following the expulsion of Arafat’s operatives in eastern Jerusalem. Jordanian officials have also made a number of secret visits to Jerusalem since 2003 as part their leading role in the multimillion dollar renovation of the Al Aksa Mosque. Jordanian Waqf officials have also restored much of the status quo that existed on the Temple Mount before September 2000. This includes the cessation of the removal of rubble containing Jewish artifacts from under the Temple Mount compound and the neutralization of much of the vitriolic incitement by Muslim religious leaders during weekly Friday prayers, a common problem from 1995 to 2002.34
The reactivation of Jordan’s special role in Jerusalem has helped to account for a sharp drop in violent incidents in eastern Jerusalem and the Temple Mount complex since 2003, and the return of tens of thousands of Israeli visitors to the site.35 Jordan’s reactivation of its traditional role in Jerusalem has been welcomed by both Israel and the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority. The return of Jordan’s moderating influence over the Muslim Waqf administration in Jerusalem provides an example of the benefits that a stronger Jordanian-Palestinian link could offer in the management of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Prospects for Jordanian-Palestinian Reengagement after Israel’s Disengagement from Gaza
On the eve of Israel’s disengagement from Gaza, the Palestinian public faces worsening lawlessness, rampant corruption, and the chaos of competing gangs and terror organizations. Average unemployment rates in the West Bank stand at close to 25 percent and have reached over 50 percent in the Gaza Strip, a state of affairs that Palestinians do not see changing in the foreseeable future. But Palestinians have also noticed the improving political and economic situation in Jordan as a result of King Abdullah’s “Jordan First” economic and political reform program.
The failure of the Palestinian uprising to achieve Palestinian national aspirations has sparked debate among PA leaders as to how to achieve a more promising Palestinian future. Some Palestinian government leaders and intellectuals have raised doubts as to whether bilateral negotiations with Israel could ever result in a politically and economically viable Palestinian state. This growing debate has amplified the urgency for a new, more stable and practical paradigm for peace. Jordan, for its part, is not interested in re-annexing the West Bank and there are influential government and business leaders in Amman militating against even a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation.
At the same time, however, there has also been a significant shift among some in both the East and West Banks who see benefits in a more central Jordanian role in the West Bank. Professor Susser points out that, if after disengagement, the West Bank is not absorbed into the Israeli “orbit of influence,” the prospect of a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation is a realistic scenario. “The two peoples have a much greater overlap of identities in addition to historical, cultural, and religious ties.”36
In practical terms, Jordanian reconsideration of assuming an enhanced West Bank role is coming about because of concern with the possibility that the Palestinian Authority might actually collapse. Whether justified or not, Jordan has been obsessed with the scenario of thousands of Palestinians crossing over from the West Bank to the Hashemite kingdom in order to seek refuge. If the call for a Jordanian role should come from the Palestinians themselves, King Abdullah might be more predisposed to pursuing such a new course of action, if it can help avert scenarios that are viewed in Amman as far more threatening to the kingdom’s own internal stability.
Therefore, the idea of a Palestinian-Jordanian reengagement and possible confederation even before the Palestinians achieve independence is no longer completely off the table on either side of the Jordan River. It should also be reconsidered by American policy-makers, for whom a viable and contiguous Palestinian state is a stated policy goal; one which might only become possible if America’s Jordanian allies can more actively help to establish the necessary security and economic infrastructure that has been so lacking in the development efforts of the Palestinian Authority alone.
Jordan may cooperate in establishing some form of closer security and political cooperation as part of the nation-building efforts of its former West Bank citizens, now its West Bank neighbors. Those interested in a viable Palestinian state and good relations between Israel and an independent Palestinian entity agree that the weight of financial and political responsibility for launching, directing, and supporting such a process must come from Washington.
The Oslo process failed to establish a foundation for a democratic and viable Palestinian state. However, completion of Israel’s Gaza disengagement creates a number of alternative scenarios for the near future.
With Israel continuing to administer strategically vital parts of the West Bank, will Palestinians in the remaining parts of this disputed territory seek to place themselves under Palestinian Gaza? And should Hamas become the leading political force in Gaza in the future, wouldn’t the Palestinians of the West Bank, and Jordan as well, have a joint interest in preventing a Hamas takeover in the West Bank too? Could Jordan not provide a needed counterweight to those Palestinian politicians from the Arafat era who, because they are tainted with corruption, are unable to offer an alternative political leadership to the Islamist movements?
A Palestinian-Jordanian confederation of some variety seems to be the most natural political alternative from historical, cultural, and ethnic standpoints. Senior Palestinian government officials have noted recently that the Palestinian National Council (PNC) has approved a number of decisions along the lines of a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation as an overall approach to solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Thus, the possibility of a renewed Palestinian-Jordanian reengagement may complement the historic process of ending Israel’s military presence in major Palestinian population centers in the West Bank, following the completion of Israel’s disengagement from Gaza.
* * *
1. Nathan Guttman and Yoav Stern, “King Abdullah: Syria, Hizballah Encourage Terror Attacks in Israel,” Ha’aretz, March 22, 2005. At pre-summit deliberations in Algiers, “Jordanian foreign Minister Hani al-Mulki complained about the failure of Arab nations to adapt to changing times.” He added, “Arabs cannot read history well and are led by their emotion, not by reason.” According to the article, Mulki tried in vain to accept the (Jordanian) proposal, arguing, “they are not making concessions to Israel but to reality.”
2. Dr. Ahmad Tell, “The Jordanian Option,” Jerusalem Forum (Jordan), http://www.jerusalemites.org/facts_documents/peace/6.htm
3. Professor Asher Susser, “Confederation Options in the Palestine-Israel Conflict,” PASSIA Symposium, Jerusalem, July 18, 2004, pp. 3-4.
4. See David Makovsky, Making Peace with the PLO: The Rabin Government’s Road to the Oslo Accord (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1995); http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/templateC04.php?CID=146. Makovsky writes, “After serving as prime minister for two years in a rotational agreement with Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres struck a deal with King Hussein in April 1987. Meeting secretly in London, Peres and Hussein agreed to an international conference (which Hussein believed was necessary to confer legitimacy on any agreement) that would serve as an umbrella for separate bilateral talks between Israel and its neighbors. The so-called “London agreement” precluded the conference from imposing, vetoing, or otherwise hindering any solutions reached by the parties. Shamir remained implacably opposed to any kind of multilateral peace negotiations, however, and immediately rejected the agreement, proposing instead that a superpower-sponsored summit with Hussein serve as the basis for direct talks with Jordan. When Hussein rejected this idea, the London Agreement disintegrated and the Palestinian issue seemed to slip off the agenda of an Arab world increasingly pre-occupied by the Iran-Iraq War.
5. Hanna Seniora, private conversation in Washington, D.C., June 27, 2005.
6. “Jordan’s King to Puts Forward New Peace Strategy,” Jerusalem Post, March 18, 2005.
7. Dan Diker, “Should Israel Now Send a New Message to the Arab World?” Jerusalem Viewpoints no. 497, May 1, 2003. See also Eytan Bentsur, “The Way to Peace Emerged at Madrid: A Decade Since the 1991 Madrid Conference,” Jerusalem Viewpoints no. 472, February 15, 2002.
8. Interview with Dr. Marouf Bakhit, Jordanian Ambassador to Israel, in Kyodo News (Japanese) March 12, 2005.
9. Kyodo News interview, March 2005.
10. Khaled Abu Toameh and Herb Keinon, “Palestinians Oppose Jordanian Plan,” Jerusalem Post, March 18, 2005.
11. Guttman and Stern, “King Abdullah.”
12. Ibid. The language of Mulki’s comments and Abdullah’s proposal also seemed to reflect at least in part the spirit of the presidential commitment made in a letter by President George W. Bush to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Washington on April 14, 2004, that Israel would not be asked to return to the 1949 armistice lines due to “new realities on the ground.”
13. Susser, “Confederation Options.”
14. Robert Satloff, “Analyzing King Abdullah’s Change in the Line of Succession,” Policywatch no. 921, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, November 29, 2004.
15. See Pinchas Inbari, With Broken Swords (Tel Aviv, 1994), pp. 148-151.
16. “King Abdullah to Involve Public in Decision-Making,” Jerusalem Post, January 26, 2005.
17. According to Middle East expert Nibras Kazami, adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute and Middle East analyst for the New York Sun, in a conversation with the author in July 2005.
18. Kyodo News Agency interview, March 2005.
19. According to the assessment of a senior Jordanian diplomatic official who met with the authors in late 2004.
20. Former Crown Prince Hassan called for the Jordanian kingdom to be responsible for all the Palestinians and then enter into a “Benelux” confederation with Palestine and Israel, in an interview in La Stampa (Italy) as quoted in “Jordan’s Hassan: Sharon Pragmatic, But Cannot Find a Partner, Ha’aretz, December 29, 2003.
21. Dan Diker and Khaled Abu Toameh, “What Happened to Reform of the Palestinian Authority?” Jerusalem Issue Brief 3:20, March 3, 2004. In fact, one leading Palestinian reformer, the head of a leading public policy institute in Ramallah, told the authors recently that a collapsed PA and a PA takeover by Hamas would represent the crossing of a red line that would force many moderate and reform-minded Palestinians to quit the Palestinian areas and start new lives in other countries. He further confirmed that Abbas is facing an exhausted, and disillusioned Palestinian public that continues to be furious at the PA for widespread government corruption. This has resulted in upwards of 30 percent popular support for Hamas.
22. In an interview with the Japanese Kyodo News Agency in March 2005, Jordanian Ambassador Dr. Ma’ruf al-Bakhit discussed the Bader forces in the West Bank. “The Badr Forces are professional forces. They are Palestinians under Jordanian army supervision. We know them one by one. (But Israel) talks now about rebuilding the Palestinian police forces. Rehabilitation. Many of them were in prison or in the (PLO) factions or Aqsa Brigades, etc. Here you have a well-trained, professional army known to all. Why not utilize them? (Israel) wants us to train the Palestinian police, and we shall do it – but why not use the already existing forces or some of them? Why not have Palestinians train Palestinians? We don’t understand why certain elements in the Israeli government are against the idea. Probably they thought this is part of bringing more people to the West Bank – but we suggested that they arrive as army units without their families, if they have suspicions.” The reason given by Israelis for rejecting the idea was that it was a plot to send the “dislocated” refugees of 1967 to the West Bank.
23. Sharon’s approval of Jordanian security cooperation in the northern West Bank was reported in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs weekly news summary of May 31-June 4, 2005. The security concerns behind Israel’s rejection of the Badr Brigade were communicated to the authors on July 4, 2005, by a senior Israel Defense Ministry official directly involved in discussions with Jordan and Egypt.
A senior PA official also indicated privately that some PA ministers in Mahmoud Abbas’s government who had also served in Arafat’s government, including Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie, opposed bringing in the Badr Brigade since they viewed Jordanian involvement as a threat to the wide-ranging economic control and monopolistic business interests of some Palestinian Authority leaders, such as Ahmed Qurie, Mohammed Dahlan, and Jibril Rijoub. Ongoing Palestinian corruption during the Oslo period from 1993 to 2000 has been one of the main causes of instability in the Palestinian areas and has resulted in a sharp rise in popularity for Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank. Recent polls show Hamas overtaking Fatah.
24. See Professor Guy Bechor, The Lexicon of the PLO (Tel Aviv, 1991), p. 164. Past PNC approval of a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation was confirmed in a conversation with a senior Palestinian Authority minister in July 2005.
25. Meeting with a leading Palestinian policy institute executive who reiterated his support for the idea of a Palestinian confederation. He also noted that Jordanian demographic and economic calculations have led some in official circles to discuss the idea seriously.
26. Asher Susser, “In Through the Out Door: Jordan’s Disengagement in the Middle East Peace Process,” Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Policy Paper no. 19, 1990.
27. King Hussein, “Address to the Nation” (Arabic), July 31, 1988; http://www.kinghussein.gov.jo/speeches_letters.html
29. Discussion with a senior source with ties to the Hashemite Kingdom and a close friend of former King Hussein, July 7, 2005.
30. According to a senior Israeli diplomat involved in pre-Oslo Jordanian-Israeli negotiations.
31. According to Nasser Eden Nashashibi, an advisor to former King Abdullah I, King Huseein, and the current king, the Jordanians felt the urgency to attain a full peace treaty with Israel in 1994 because they feared that a full peace agreement between Arafat and Israel would weaken Jordan’s future role.
32. Dan Diker, “The Expulsion of the Palestinian Authority from Jerusalem and the Temple Mount,” Jerusalem Issue Brief 3:31, August 5, 2004. Arafat also named Hassan Tahboub as PA Minister for Waqf Affairs. Tahboub, too, did not physically remove Husseini but effectively sidelined him. However, neither the Jordanians nor local Waqf officials had considered this an immediate threat because both the Palestinian Tahboub and Jordanian-backed Husseini were from well-known Jerusalem families.
33. For an analysis of the renewed Jordanian role in Jerusalem, see Diker, “Expulsion of the Palestinian Authority.”
36. Susser, “Confederation Options,” p. 6.
* * *
Dan Diker is a senior policy analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and heads its Defensible Borders Initiative. He also serves as Knesset correspondent and analyst for the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s English News.
Pinchas Inbari is a veteran Palestinian affairs correspondent who formerly reported for Israel Radio and Al Hamishmar newspaper, and currently reports for several foreign media outlets. He is the author of a number of books on the Palestinians including The Palestinians: Between Terror and Statehood.