These proposals, though lacking any real political and moral basis, reflect the authentic worldview of today's Israeli Right. One that believes in Jewish superiority, not considering Arabs as equals; one that sees strength in the crude use of force and weakness in democracy, respect for human rights and appealing to the world. If this will indeed be the pervading view of our next government, we risk endangering both our very Jewish and democratic being as well as our place among the family of nations.
On January 23, we will all wake up to reality; a reality in which seven million Jews and five-and-a-half million Arabs live between the Sea and the River; a reality in which Palestinians are demanding their national rights in opposition to Israeli occupation, some with pragmatism, some with growing extremism – rights that are being recognized by the entire world, believing, along with the United States, in a two-state solution; a reality in which, given our size and economy, we are highly dependent on the world, primarily the United States; a reality in which history teaches us that racism and lack of morality lead to catastrophe.
It can be safely assumed that Netanyahu, most likely our next prime minister, in between his authentic right-wing ideological views and his grasp of reality, will opt for a national unity government.
It will be up to the next government to come up with a plan that takes into consideration the reality that we face, our real interests, and those of our No. 1 strategic ally, the United States. This need arises against the backdrop of a looming crisis in the Palestinian Authority.
The fact that so far we have been able to offer assets only to the extremist Hamas – a withdrawal from Gaza, negotiations, cease-fire, prisoner release – while "punishing" the more moderate Palestinian Authority of Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) – with no withdrawal, no negotiations, no prisoner release, no transfer of funds and only settlement expansions – has led to the strengthening of Hamas and the weakening of Fatah. Palestinians in the West Bank are frustrated and are giving up hope for a political solution and may turn to support Hamas and rise in opposition to Abu Mazen and Israel.
Many in the Israeli Right see such a scenario as a welcome self-fulfilling prophecy.
Given this challenging reality and convoluted composition of views and expectations, it is highly urgent to think of new formulas to lead us and the region to a realistic plan of peace and security in favor of a two-state solution. It has lately been speculated in the Arab press, for example in the beginning of January in the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi, that King Abdullah of Jordan has discussed with President Abu Mazen the possibility of a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation after the establishment of a Palestinian state.
These speculations may or may not be true, but the option deserves serious consideration. There is a clear and close link between the West Bank and the East Bank. About 70 percent of Jordan's population is of Palestinian origin, almost two million of them in refugee camps, but generally they are well integrated into Jordanian society. Leading Palestinian businessmen play a key role in the Jordanian economy. The queen of Jordan, Rania, happens to be of Palestinian origin. There are often close family relations between West Bank and East Bank Palestinians. Many influential West Bank Palestinians have a second home in Amman. The infrastructure is often shared, at least in potential, for example transportation, energy, water, etc.
Yet what needs to be clear to anyone contemplating this option, and it also allegedly came up in Netanyahu's most recent secret meeting with King Abdullah, is that no institutional link between West and East Bank is possible before the establishment of an internationally recognized Palestinian state. The last thing Palestinians will opt for is to move from Israeli rule to Jordanian rule. It seems that King Abdullah understands this and is open-minded toward the Palestinians and knows that a solution to the Palestinian problem is of prime interest to his kingdom's stability and security.
There are many advantages to a confederative solution between a State of Palestine and the Kingdom of Jordan from the perspective of Palestinians and Jordanians, of Israel, and of the international community led by the United States.
From a Palestinian perspective, it would be a way forward to the creation of a Palestinian state, prior to confederation, while sharing some responsibilities with an experienced and internationally respected partner.
Jordan gained independence in 1946. Its leadership is viewed positively in the United States and in the world as moderate and pro-Western, which would probably accelerate the peace and negotiation process. Jordan, which is also respected in the Arab fold, would abide by Palestinian decisions regarding the creation of an independent state, borders, settlements and Jerusalem, on which the Palestinians and Jordanians in any case have identical views.
A Palestinian-Jordanian confederation would be a better basis on which to develop the economy for a new state in relation to infrastructure, trade, foreign investment, tourism and even the absorption of refugees. Given the effectiveness of the Jordanian security forces, the eventual confederation would contribute to Jordan's security as well as to regional and anti-terror security arrangements.
Such a historic decision would strengthen the hand of the pragmatists on the Palestinian side at the expense of the fundamentalist organizations which cannot offer a horizon of statehood.
Jordan already has a peace treaty with Israel, signed in 1994, that can be a further basis for the establishment of real peace in the region. Peace with Israel is of prime interest for the Palestinians as the development of a more prosperous and democratic Palestine is also conditioned on peace. As Israel needs to rid itself, in its own interest, from occupation, the Arab states must rid themselves of their rejection of Israel and hostility toward the Jewish state. Peace is not a favor to Israel, but a Palestinian interest; it is also the only basis upon which the Palestinians can develop their democracy and economy.
Many of these factors are also in Israel's favor, as this is not a zero-sum game. The Jordanians and their leadership are by far the most popular Arabs in the mind of Israel's government and public alike.
This stems from the days of King Hussein and the respect he knew to show Israelis for their legitimate aspirations and security concerns. For years before the peace treaty, the Hashemite king conducted secret talks with Israeli leaders, and he also enjoyed close personal relations with Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. This was never at the expense of his Arab patriotism and his solidarity with the Palestinians.
His son has inherited these characteristics.
It would be far easier for any Israeli leadership to convince its public of a solution to the Palestinian issue which includes a massive evacuation of settlers, a border based on the '67 boundaries, and Jerusalem as a shared capital if Jordan would ultimately be partner to such a solution.
Israel's legitimate security concerns would be addressed better in such a regional arrangement. It would make the security arrangement in the Jordan Valley easier and not necessitate a long-term Israeli presence along the river. Regional security can also be based on what is contemplated in the Jordanian- Israeli Peace Treaty, "a conference on security and cooperation in the Middle East" based on the EU model.
There are aspects of the relationship – in the aftermath of the creation of an independent Palestinian state and thereafter the Palestinian-Jordanian confederation – that could be dealt with in a trilateral way; this would include federative economic relations of free trade and major joint economic ventures, along the Dead Sea, for instance, addressing the need for water and energy. Moreover, trilateral security arrangements would facilitate addressing the difficult issue of border crossings as well as cooperation against terrorism. And a good peace relationship with economic development would send a strong signal of cooperation to the whole region.
The United States, in a second Obama term, has a strategic interest in a viable peace process with a realistic vision of regional peace that would undermine the rise of fundamentalism and radicalism in the region. A long-term prospect of a Palestinian- Jordanian confederation could ignite an American-orchestrated peace process in the foreseeable future.
While the advantages of this proposition are for all sides, the decision on the establishment of a confederation must fall only to Ramallah and Amman.
The leaders in the region, Arabs and Israelis alike, need to understand that on January 23 a long year of election campaigns in the United States and Israel will come to an end. This means a return to reality, rather than slogans, demagoguery and empty promises, and it's a reality that demands fresh thinking and ideas from all sides.
From: Yoel <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, Dec 27, 2012 at 1:07 PM
Subject: The Jordanian Option: a federation between Jordan and Palestine
To: Qumran <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Palestinian Authority officials confirmed Thursday that they were studying the possibility of establishing a confederation with Jordan, but stressed that this would take place only after the creation of an independent Palestinian state within the pre-1967 lines.
The officials were commenting on a report in the London-based Al-Quds al- Arabi newspaper that claimed that PA President Mahmoud Abbas had asked senior Fatah leaders to prepare for the formation of a confederation between a Palestinian state and Jordan.
The newspaper said that Abbas has instructed his advisors to provide him with "detailed strategic reports about the best way to conduct negotiations with Jordan about reviving the confederation plan."
Abbas reportedly met with seven top Fatah and PA figures and discussed with them the idea, the report said, adding that the PA president had asked that the meeting remain confidential.
The report quoted an informed Palestinian source as saying that Abbas told participants that the confederation plan would come soon "and we must be prepared for it."
Jordan and the PA are scheduled to launch talks on their future relations on February 21, the report revealed.
On Saturday, the Fatah Central Committee is expected to discuss the confederation plan during a meeting in Ramallah, according to the source.
Jordanian politicians quoted Abbas as saying that the Palestinian state would not be able to survive without forging a confederation with Jordan.
Abbas hinted that he discussed the idea with Jordan's King Abdullah, when the latter visited Ramallah earlier this week.
Abbas's rapprochement with Jordan is the result of a Saudi-Qatari-Turkish alliance that backs Hamas and ignores the PA, the politicians noted.
Abbas's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, said in response that the confederation idea would be discussed only after the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
Abu Rudaineh said that the idea was first discussed in 1988 and the two sides agreed that when a Palestinian state is established this option would be on the table.
He said that any decision taken by the PA leadership would be brought before the Palestinians for approval through a referendum.
PLO Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Yusef said that the confederation plan was just a "study" during the current phase.
Abu Yusef said that any talk about the confederation plan now would hinder efforts to establish an independent Palestinian state within the pre-1967 lines "because Israel is hoping that a Palestinian state would be part of Jordan."
Any confederation would be announced only after a Palestinian state is established, he added.
"What is happening now is only a discussion and a study about future options of a Palestinian state."
Diplomatic sources would not comment on the report.
אז מה הפתרון? מדינה אחת? הערבים יהפכו בה לרוב וידכאו את המיעוט היהודי. שתי מדינות? המדינה הערבית תשמיד את המדינה היהודית. המסקנה ההגיונית היא שאין פתרון - וזוהי אכן סיסמת הדגל של הימין הציוני בימינו.
אבל מוריס לא מרגיש בנוח עם מסקנה זו. לכן, כאילו ברגע האחרון, הוא מדביק לספר, ממש בשני העמודים האחרונים, פתרון הזוי: שהגדה המערבית תצורף לירדן באיזושהי פדרציה, וכך ניפטר מכל העניין. "האופציה הירדנית" הנשכחת, שהומצאה אך ורק כדי לקבור את הבעיה הפלסטינית, חוזרת בדלת האחורית.
אילו בילה מוריס - ולו שבוע אחד - בירדן, היה יודע שזה פתרון מגוחך. יש ישות ירדנית, והיא לא חולמת להתאחד עם הפלסטינים. למעשה, אין רעיון המטיל על הירדנים אימה גדולה יותר. בוטרוס בוטרוס ראלי, המצרי הקופטי שהיה שר החוץ בפועל של מצרים ואחר כך מזכיר האו"ם, אמר לי פעם: "המומחים הישראלים לעניינים ערביים הם הטובים בעולם. הם קראו את כל הספרים, המאמרים והנאומים. הם יודעים את הכל - ולא מבינים כלום".
Jordanian and Palestinian officials held talks on Thursday, during which a number of agreements were signed.
The most prominent of these was a free trade agreement, according to the Jordan News Agency, Petra.
Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh and his Palestinian counterpart Salam Fayyad announced the agreements at a joint press conference in Ramallah.
Tarawneh was in Ramallah on a short visit to take part in the third session of the Joint Jordanian-Palestinian Higher Committee.
Formed in the 1990s, the panel held its second session in 1998 when Tarawneh's first government was in office.
The prime minister also met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the committee meeting.
Talks covered the "deep-rooted ties" between Jordan and Palestine, in addition to Jordan's keenness on building on the current relations to benefit both sides.
At the press conference, Tarawneh reiterated Jordan's support for the Palestinian Authority and people, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on its own land, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
But the premier said the trade volume between Jordan and Palestine remains "below aspirations", standing at around JD75 million in 2011 and called for resolving the "technical difficulties" to increase trade levels.
He also called for ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and for a two-state solution that is entrenched within a regional context that would achieve peace and stability in the region.
The prime minister said the Kingdom will continue to support the Palestinians politically and help them confront Israel's attempts to Judaise Jerusalem.
He emphasised Jordan's role in preserving Islamic and Christian sites in Jerusalem.
Tarawneh also conveyed His Majesty King Abdullah's greetings to the Palestinian president, government and people.
Also at the press conference, Fayyad said emphasis should be placed on the difficult financial situation of the Palestinian Authority under the Israeli occupation.
He reiterated that Palestinians will not be swayed from their cause of establishing their own independent state within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Farouk Kaddoumi, a veteran PLO official, dropped a political bombshell Wednesday with a call for "returning" the West Bank to Jordan.
Kaddoumi, who is based in Tunisia, said he supported the idea of a federation or confederation between the West Bank and Jordan. His remarks, which came during an interview with the London-based Al- Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, are the first of their kind to be voiced by a senior PLO figure in decades.
Kaddoumi is one of the founders of Fatah, and for decades served as head of the PLO's "political department." He is one of the few PLO leaders who refused to move from Tunisia to the Palestinian territories after the signing of the Oslo Accords, which he had strongly opposed.
Kaddoumi told the newspaper, during an interview in his office in the Tunisian capital, that giving the West Bank back to Jordan would be a "positive move." He added, nevertheless, that the Palestinians should not drop their demand for a right to return to Israel proper.
"We launched our revolution for all of Palestine, and that's why we need to be very cautious," Kaddoumi said.
"We must safeguard our people's right to return," he stressed. "We must insist on the right of return for all refugees, because this is the minimum that we could accept."
Kaddoumi launched a scathing attack on the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, for abandoning the armed struggle against Israel and failing the Palestinian people.
"Undoubtedly, the Palestinian Authority has reached a dead end," he stated, adding that the peace process had failed because Israel was seeking to dictate its terms and conditions to the Palestinians.
Referring to economic hardships in the West Bank, Kaddoumi said that Palestinians' lives had become a tragedy due to "widespread starvation and harsh conditions." He also said the Palestinians had lost hope of reaching an agreement with Israel that would ensure them their minimal rights.
"Unfortunately, Israel has seized most of the lands of the West Bank and the only way left for us is the national resistance," he said. "Regrettably, the Palestinian Authority and its president do not want any kind of resistance after they got rid of the fighters who say that resistance is the only want to liberate the land."
He acknowledged that Fatah had been weakened due to its failure to reform and return to the path of armed struggle. He also slammed Abbas for "cutting my salary." The PA president made the decision several years ago following harsh criticism against him by Kaddoumi.
He also scoffed at Abbas's renewed statehood bid at the United Nations, saying the PLO had obtained membership in the international organization in 1974. In addition, he noted that the UN had recognized the Palestinian state declared by Yasser Arafat in 1988, adding that 105 countries had since lent their own recognition.
"By going back to the UN, Abbas is falsely creating the impression that he is making achievements that were already achieved," he said.
Kaddoumi's remarks about returning the West Bank to Jordan apparently came in response to recent statements made by Jordan's Prince Hassan bin Talal, who served as crown prince between 1965 and 1999.
At a meeting with Palestinians in Amman, the prince said the territories of the West Bank were actually part of the Hashemite Kingdom. He added that the two-state solution was now irrelevant.
Jordan officially renounced its claim to the West Bank in 1988 when the late King Hussein announced his kingdom was cutting off its administrative and legal ties to the area.