Photo: AFP                         Jordan’s King Abdullah II (R) meets with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas

 

Will Palestine unite with Jordan to separate from Israel?

On March 31, during a visit of the head of the administration of the Palestinian autonomy Mahmoud Abbas to Jordan, Mr. Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah II signed an agreement that allows the King to oversee Jerusalem’s Muslim historic sites. Now, His Majesty will defend the interests of Jerusalem Muslims if they are infringed by Jews.

According to this agreement, from now on, Israel will have to coordinate with Palestine the issues of security at the Temple Mount (a place in Jerusalem where the city’s two main mosques are located), the access of Muslims to these mosques and archeological work at the sites.

Many experts hope that this agreement may get the development of Israeli-Palestinian relations out of a deadlock.

However, if the meeting between King Abdullah and Mahmoud Abbas would have been limited to discussing only this issue, important as it may be, the US State Secretary John Kerry would have hardly went to Jordan to meet with the King one week before His Majesty’s meeting with the Palestinian leader. The matter is that besides the status of mosques in Jerusalem, Abdullah II and Mahmoud Abbas discussed another issue – the possibility of creating a confederation of Jordan and the Palestinian autonomy (or, more exactly, not the entire Palestinian autonomy, but only the West Bank of River Jordan, without Gaza). The empowerment of Jordan’s King with the status of a supervisor of Jerusalem mosques was, in fact, the first step of this plan.

It should be noted that in late December, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also visited Jordan and also discussed this issue with King Abdullah.

In fact, the idea of a confederation of Jordan and Palestine is not new. But after Palestine received the status of an observer state in the UN in November 2012, this idea is now being discussed more actively.

The President of the Russian Institute of the Middle East Evgeny Satanovsky says:

“Israel will most likely agree to the formation of a confederation between Palestine and Jordan – at least, as long as Jordan is ruled by the current Hashemite dynasty. However, many Palestinians don’t like this dynasty. In September 1970, ethnic Palestinians in Jordan made an attempt to oust Hussein, the father of the current King Abdullah II, but failed to do so. After that, Hussein started large-scale repressions against Palestinians in his country. Several thousand of them were killed and several thousand fled from Jordan. Taking this into account, it can be doubted whether Hussein’s son Abdullah II may want a confederation with Palestine.”

As it is known, the main “apple of discord” between Israel and the Palestinian autonomy is that neither of them is inclined to recognize the other as a separate state. If each of the sides recognizes the other as a sovereign state, on the same level as its own, this would most probably considerably speed up the solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Jordan does recognize the sovereignty of Israel. If Palestine forms a confederation with Jordan, it probably would follow the example of Jordan and recognize Israel’s sovereignty too. The US would have welcomed this – and this is why the US is ready to be a mediator in talks between Jordan and Palestine over the formation of such a confederation.

Anatoly Egorov from the Russian Institute of Oriental Studies says:

“The idea of a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation was expressed when Yasser Arafat was still alive. The US has always backed this idea. I also believe that such a confederation would help to push the solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict out of a deadlock.”

Some analysts are suggesting that as a first step to this solution, Israel and Palestine should probably conclude a temporary agreement about recognizing each other’s sovereignty, without specifying where the border between the two states should lie. This question, as well as those of the status of Palestinian refugees in Israel and of Jewish settlements on the Palestinian territory, should be solved a bit later, the analysts suggest.

Here is Evegeny Satanovsky again:

“The fact that Israel has agreed to hand the control over the Temple Mount to Jordan is inspiring. It means that Israel is ready to make certain concessions to Palestinians. I find this to be a good starting step towards the solution of the long-standing Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

Both Mr. Satanovsky and Mr. Egorov note that Russia’s authorities would also welcome a confederation between Jordan and Palestine. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has good relations both with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Besides, Mr. Satanovsky is probably too pessimistic in his supposition that King Abdullah II may not want a confederation with Palestine. A recent report from Jordan’s capital Amman says that His Majesty has made several supporters of the idea of such a confederation his advisers.

In fact, the West Bank was controlled by Jordan before 1967. Why cannot Jordan regain control over it now?

The concern that Palestinians may not want a union with Jordan is probably also exaggerated. Arabian journalist Daoud Kuttab, who lives in the US, quoted a phrase which he once heard from one rather radically-minded Palestinian: “Palestinians badly want freedom – be it only five minutes of freedom. If a confederation with Jordan is needed for that, Palestinians would accept such a confederation.”