Recently, it was reported by Abu Mazen that Trump’s deal of the century is, in fact, a confederation between the PA and Jordan, an idea that was discussed at the Jordan Option Conference at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center last year and that I reported on in a recent article in the Christian Post.
While the Jordanian monarchy has dismissed the idea of a PA-Jordan confederation and Abu Mazen declared that he will only consider it if such a confederation includes Israel, the idea is still championed by those on the Israeli right, who feel that it will help Israel to rid herself of areas that are demographically problematic while holding onto areas of the West Bank that are strategically important for her security.
Given this, how realistic is the Jordan Option for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?
Presently speaking, Israel has a significant terror problem and this issue shows zero signs of going away unless concrete action is taken. The Southern Command Chief of the IDF recently warned that there will be no calm with Gaza over the next decade as the navy fired warning shots toward Gazan vessels trying to break the blockade. According to Mendi Safadi, who heads the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Affairs and Human Rights, “Terrorism is growing and growing, building a sophisticated international network that uses the latest technological tools and turns the technology into a murder tool whose effectiveness is sometimes superior to that of conventional weapons.”
Indeed, here in Israel, we have witnessed how children’s kites, rocks and cars have been transformed into weapons to be utilized to murder and maim Israelis while causing the maximum level of destruction.
“Terrorism is an ideology that nourishes and directs them,” Safadi noted. “The ideology that sweeps out errant young people with no purpose and suddenly reveals a lofty goal that promises them paradise and many virgins. This ideology is distributed every day all over the world. Although the preaching of the ideology of terror is spread daily under the nose of all of us, no one has built a strategy to fight it because democracy allows preaching any ideology that man wants to spread. Democracy is beautiful and excellent when it is accompanied by borders. But when the borders of democracy are breached, it becomes a dangerous anarchy.”
Given this reality, I believe that such wanton acts of terrorism will continue so long as Fatah, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, alongside other terror groups, are emboldened with the possibility of a liberated Palestine free of Jews accompanied by the dream of a right of return by the international community, especially when nothing else is put on the table.
Indeed, Palestinian Jordanian dissident Mudar Zahran, who recently spoke at the European Parliament, gave an interview to David Ha’Ivri on Israeli Radio, proclaiming that the EU policies in favor of a two-state solution is an obstacle to peace: “They are supporting the wrong parties. First of all, they are supporting the tyrannical corrupt Palestinian Authority and a dictatorship in the Hashemite Kingdom, which occupies 78% of historic Palestine. The Hashemites are occupiers and they treat us very badly. The Palestinian Authority is an illegitimate creation that was never elected and was never chosen by the people. There was never a referendum about the Palestinian Authority.
Most Jordanians and Palestinians no longer believe in the mythical values that established the conflict or the values established by the advocates of a liberated Palestine fighting the Jews and feeding the Jews to the fish. These are all slogans created by Nasser of Egypt, King Hussein and Yasser Arafat. All three men are gone. It’s time to move on. Most Palestinians and Jordanians say in secret what we said at the European Parliament in public.”
“We are not interested in the Palestinian Authority keeping or taking any more land,” Zahran proclaimed. “We have had enough of them. We are not interested in remaining as refugees in Jordan.” Massad Abu Toameh, a Palestinian affairs analyst in Jerusalem, noted how much the Palestinians are suffering under the tyrannical rule of the Palestinian Authority: “The whole welfare system does not exist in the Palestinian areas. Only under the Israelis do we have rights. Today, the young people in East Jerusalem work and learn in Hebrew and do good jobs.
Mohammed has grown up and has become a realistic person. Mohammed works in hi-tech, is an engineer and has a vision for something. Furthermore, under Israel, we get scholarships for university education. Lots of young people in the Palestinian areas do not have this opportunity. Only the Jerusalemites living under Israeli rule do. More and more are waking up.”
Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid noted: “I doubt that if there is any Arab country interested in a Palestinian state. Maybe Norway and Denmark want a Palestinian state. I do not believe that the Saudis and Qatar want a Palestinian state. I do not think that a Palestinian state will be established. The Arabs are divided. Look at what is going on in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the others. Look at what is going on between Syria and other Arab countries. While the Arabs are divided, I do not see any new good ideas coming from them.
I used to say all the time that the majority of the Palestinians these days are people that want dignity rather than identity. I am not a person who can suggest a political solution but I am a person who is calling all the time for economic prosperity for the Palestinians. If you come today to any ordinary Palestinian and ask about the three priorities you are seeking; he will say a job, education and health.”
“No one is talking about settlements or the wall or the foundation of a Palestinian state,” Eid declared. “We are facing a very hard daily life. This means that most Palestinians lost the trust in their own leadership. I do not think that Abbas will bring peace or build a state.
When we talk about the economy, this is the only thing that will attract the Palestinians now. If Israel would make a survey about annexing the West Bank to Israel, 99% would support it. At the same time, I do not think that Israel will annex the West Bank. The government is scared of the demographic changes in the next 20 or 30 years for than the majority of the future will be Muslim instead of Jewish.
I think what Israel should do immediately is to improve the economic prosperity of the Palestinians. While Israel increases the economy of the Palestinians, Israel will decrease the Palestinian violence. It is the only real solution for the moment for the coming 10 years. Let us see what will happen after Abbas goes.”
While Zahran, Eid and Abu Toameh noted that many Palestinians are not content with corrupt Palestinian Authority rule, the question remains, can this lead to the implementation of the Jordanian Option solution, given the fact that Israel is not willing to annex the West Bank? Eid is a bit skeptical, stressing that a confederation can only be made between two independent states and he believes that the Hashemite monarchy is stable so long as it is propped up by foreign aid.
He indicated that since the Hashemites are opposed to such a confederation, the likelihood of it happening is slim. Zahran disagrees, indicating that the Jordan Option is now within the realm of the possible given recent developments both in Jordan and the Palestinian Authority as a solution both to the plight of Palestinian refugees and the tyranny being espoused in the PA.
In fact, Zahran noted that the Palestinians are not the only ones interested in the Jordan Option. “Also the Bedouin Jordanians want a change where they have equal rights,” Zahran proclaimed. As Jordanian writer, Muhammed Abu Rumman declared, “If the alternative homeland (Jordan is Palestine) means having a state built on citizenship, equality in the eyes of the law, political reform, good governance and fair development, then that is the very homeland that we desire and strive desperately to have.”
According to Zahran, “Things are changing fast. I do not believe that the PA will survive beyond Abbas and the Hashemites won’t last beyond this current king. In fact, he is very contested with protests sweeping across Jordan. With this being the situation, change is around the corner.”
Indeed, not too long ago, the king was forced to replace the prime minister due to popular discontent over how the monarchy was caving into demands from the IMF in order to compensate for their own government’s corruption.
Some analysts noted that unless the Hashemites change course and start to be more self-sufficient, they could lose power and these analysts have warned the Jordanian monarchy to shape up before it is “too late.” However, others have noted that seldom do corrupt tyrants change course and implement true reform, choosing instead to remain corrupt till the end.
Given this, will the Hashemites fall and change the conventional wisdom about the stability of Arab monarchies in the West? Only time will tell. However, should the Hashemites be overthrown and be replaced by a secular Palestinian who supports peace with Israel like Zahran, then the implementation of the Jordan Option becomes a possibility.
Of course, the Jordan Option won’t immediately solve every issue for Israel. There are still 4.7 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza according to the latest Palestinian census. While many on the Israeli right question the accuracy of these statistics due to the fact that they include residents of East Jerusalem and also people who left the West Bank years ago, the fact remains that there is a significant Arab population living among Jews both inside Israel proper, Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Given this, so long as Israel exists as a Jewish state, there will always be Islamists who seek to wage terror attacks against it, regardless of which peace plan is being promoted. However, if the Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have good lives and are empowered economically and politically, like the Israeli Arabs are, while at the same time Israel takes measures to make their lives better within East Jerusalem and the West Bank, over time, support for the Palestinian terror groups will die down.
This especially will be the case if Palestinians in the West Bank obtain full civil rights as Jordanian citizens as part of a confederation while at the same time getting autonomy under Mordechai Kedar’s eight-state solution, which will grant them the same rights as those who live in the ancient Greek city-states while being united with Jordan under a great confederation. Israel’s security won’t be jeopardized under this solution for she will annex the areas, not in these city-states and grant the locals their Israeli citizenship.
East Jerusalemites will also get full rights as Israeli citizens, and the descendants of Palestinian refugees will get either compensation or will be settled in Jordan, just as the Jewish refugees from Arab countries will also get compensated. The only ones in the Middle East who will actively oppose this are the terror groups, Iran, the Islamists and the remnants of the PA and certain Arab dictatorships but without having a Palestinian base of support, their strength will weaken.
Thus, while the terror won’t disappear overnight following the Jordan Option being implemented, what it will do is empower Palestinian moderates who are merely seeking to live decent lives, to earn a living and to have good health care and education at the expense of certain dictatorships, the Islamists and terror groups. Thus, if the Jordan Option is implemented, it will be a vast improvement over the status quo today.
While some people can call Zahran a dreamer, who keeps on predicting the downfall of the king while it has of yet to happen, it is important to recall that a better future is always built by visionaries who one day woke up with a dream of a great tomorrow and fight every day to implement those dreams.
Rachel Avraham is the President of the Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi Center for Human Rights in Middle East (under formation). She is also a political analyst at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research and Public Relations and a contributing writer at the Haym Salomon Center. Avraham is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media.