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The rationale of the Jordanian initiative
In the last few months, Palestinians of different stripes received invitations to cross the Jordan River for a dialogue with the Jordanian monarch. However, coming back, many of these Palestinians were confused as to the timing and the content of the Jordanian message and where it might lead us all.
There are four major aspects of Jordanian/Palestinian relations that will continue to govern each side’s positions, interests and needs depending on the vision, mission and power of their respective leaderships.
Arab unity was built around two concepts: one was unity itself and the other was liberation for Palestine. But this idea of Arab unity failed to resurrect itself after the Syrian disengagement from the UAR in 1961 and the Palestinian liberation movement was crippled as it has been crippled since by both internal and external conflicts.
Thus, today the world’s longest-running occupation, that of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, and the absence of a political horizon, are creating a regional culture of fear because of the uncertainty they create for Palestine and the Palestinians and the impact this might have in the region, particularly in Jordan.
Jordanian officials have already conveyed their "disappointment" with the performance of the Palestinian leadership and their concern regarding the Islamist rise to power and those parties’ growing connections in Amman as well as with the vacuum of law and order in the occupied Palestinian territory. At the same time, Jordanian officials re-affirmed their traditional position of no ambition and no interest in any future re-involvement in Palestine.
Jordan has enough problems with the flood of refugees from Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine as well its cold relations with Syria.
King Abdullah’s initiative to personally meet with various Palestinian groups/professionals/semi-officials and businessmen allowed the monarch to gain first-hand knowledge of the post-Arafat Palestinian agenda and to introduce the Arab summit initiative of 2007 as an Arab "umbrella" to free Palestinians from the prison they are in. It is a similar initiative to the Jordanian "umbrella" for the Palestinians during their intifada of 1987 and the formation of the joint delegation to the international Madrid conference in 1991.
But Islamists and misleading western reports have found fertile ground in Jordan’s rational approach to the crisis in Palestine. In particular, the question of Jerusalem and the holy places--one of the major components of Jordanian/Palestinian concern, especially in light of the "Israelization" policies and practices of recent years in the city--has been a target of Islamist criticism. The Jordanian/Israeli peace treaty of 1994 emphasized that Jordan is to enjoy custodianship over the holy sites in occupied East Jerusalem. This legal responsibility for Jordan is to be respected by Israel and for the time being shared with the Palestinians. In other words, there is a confused relationship over the issue between the occupier Israel, the indigenous inhabitants the Palestinians, and the "guardians" the Jordanians.
To the Islamists, the question of Jerusalem is a political card, providing the movements with fodder to criticize the Palestinian and Jordanian leaderships for failing to stop Israel’s creeping Israelization of the city. In addition, Islamists have argued that Israeli-Jordanian relations on the matter amount to nothing other than a business relationship.
One cannot help but notice that in the recent Aqaba meeting of May 2007 there was no discussion of Jerusalem and no cohesive Palestinian position on the various ideas put forth during the meetings. Only a small window for businessmen opened in which a "Palestinian-Israeli Business Council" was established with a vague agenda contradicting the current political environment.
The issues of security and the economy, meanwhile, prompted rightwing Israeli voices to call for greater Jordanian involvement in the oPt in the hope that in time this would lead to a "Jordanian solution" for what is left of the West Bank. Today we have four isolated Palestinian cantons: in the north, Nablus, in the center, Ramallah (excluding Jerusalem), in the south, Hebron, and in a different world, Gaza. These cantons have no leaderships, no political elites, no family notables as in the 1950s and 1980s. All of these cantons have special "border crossings": Jericho for the West Bank and Rafah for Gaza Strip.
In this confused atmosphere, the “Jordanian solution” has seemed strangely attractive to some. In large part, this is due to the internal Palestinian situation. The occupation has encouraged Palestinian infighting, and Palestinian-Palestinian clashes have led to a devaluation of the Palestinian cause among Arab countries as well as in the West, in addition to creating an ever-growing gap between Hamas and Fateh, in spite of the supposed unity government.
Both political illiterates and shortsighted business opportunists, in a reflection of their wishful thinking and interpretation of the Jordanian initiative (as well as the Cairo faction talks), have thus seized on Jordanian and Egyptian activities and spread rumors in the hope of influencing public opinion to push the two countries to make dramatic moves.
But it would be political suicide for both Jordan and Egypt to allow these circumstances to lead them to take any direct administrative roles or security missions in the oPt. It should continue to be the responsibility of the Quartet and regional parties to bring an end to the Israeli occupation and to apply the two-state solution. The Arab initiative came 40 years late, was sent to the wrong address and arrived in both Palestine and Israel at a time when there is an absence of charismatic leaders. It is time to re-address the Arab initiative to an international conference and to pressure the UN Security Council to apply its own resolutions to end the occupation.- Published 31/5/2007 © bitterlemons.org
Related article: bitterlemons-international.org
Dr. Mahdi Abdul Hadi is head of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs, PASSIA.