The Camp David conundrum is essentially three conundrums in one: how to expand the original peace treaty with Egypt to encompass the entire Arab world, how to find the correct formula to include a Palestinian state within the territorial confines of the original mandated area, and how to secure Israel and the Arab world from the hegemonic designs of other regional and/or superpower actors without resort to a nuclear arms race. In other words, to overcome the business left behind from the Camp David summits of 1979, 2000 and 2015. These three major Middle East summits, conducted by three separate Democratic Party presidents, all held promise. But as yet that promise has not been adequately fulfilled.
Without a Palestinian state that formally recognizes Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, it will be impossible to inject the two united Jerusalem capitals into any internationally-sanctioned regional security architecture. Without these two Jerusalem capitals, the likelihood of a coherent region — in the spheres of social justice, political enfranchisement, security, and economic viability — will be low. Arab political democracy is not only the road to a peaceful Middle East; it is also the vehicle by which moderate Islam can begin to triumph over a jihadist authoritarianism ensconced in its many variations. Unless the Arab peoples can see an alternative to the dictators and absolute monarchs which have commanded their political terrain for the last sixty years, the dissatisfaction inherent within the current ancient regime will continue to fester and cause even more turmoil.
ISIS and Islamic Iran are both products of imperial hegemony and its acceptance of anti-democratic royal houses and one-party states. The mullahs in Tehran would never have come to power without US acceptance of the Shah. The establishment in Washington has never once questioned the legitimacy of the “moderate” dynasty of the Hashemite rule in Jordan. But for the majority of the people in Jordan, true representation with an equitable distribution of parliamentary power has never been attained. The same is true in Bahrain and throughout the US-backed Arabian Gulf. In the major Arab states of Egypt, Syria and Iraq, American and European acquiescence to military juntas has fostered the rise of mosque politics above and beyond any liberal alternative. In this modern era the independence of the Middle East has become thoroughly compromised, as the geopolitics of the Cold War have inhibited pluralism and basic human rights. This, in turn, has led to the 21st century rise of Sunni Islamic fundamentalism as a counter to both dictatorship and the budding Shiite Caliphate in Iran.
Washington’s fear of a democratic Jordan can be juxtaposed against its acclaim for Israel’s incredible incorporation of its enemy Palestinians as citizens within its own parliamentary system. As much as the US credits its support for the democratic Jewish state as a common value, it acclaims (paradoxically) its support for absolute monarchy in the form of a pro-American royal house in Jordan. This foreign policy has now completely collapsed. US foreign policy in the Middle East is in total confusion. And its two political parties are increasingly opposed to any formula that would enhance the prospect of democratic outcomes within Jordan, as a product of nation-building leading to democratic structures. What was a success in Iraq, as experienced through the amazing results of the 2010 elections, were squandered through neglect and inane political correctness. Iraq had been the only US-sponsored democratic success story in history, as the successful candidacy of Ayad Allawi proved. But Washington under Barack Obama failed the test of democratic leadership, and Allawi’s Sunni supporters were left to twist in the wind. In the final analysis it was US illiberal leadership that failed in Iraq, and we are now paying the consequences for Obama’s misguided policy.
The idea that a Palestinian state can live alongside the absolute monarchy in Jordan is the Achilles heel of the so-called two-state solution. Jordan is majority Palestinian. Whatever the West Bank Palestinians attain, the East Bank Palestinians will also want. Unless millions of Palestinians remain disenfranchised on the East Bank, the so-called two-state solution simply can’t work. The PLO has been aware of this simple fact from the beginning of its aptly-named “phased strategy”. The Palestinian leadership understands democracy better than the Democratic Party and Labor Party establishments in the US and Israel. They know that once a West Bank Palestinian state is achieved, the push for “Jordanian democracy” will not be far behind. In such a scenario, Israel will be left with greater Tel Aviv, while the PLO and the Palestinians (or Hamas) will gain Greater Palestine. So much for Israel’s long-term security, but at least (according to the Left) it no longer will be an “occupying power”. In fact, as Greater Palestine militarizes, Israel won’t have much power at all.
A Palestinian state must be achieved in order to bring Israel into any formalized regional security structure. Now the Sunni Arabs need this as much as the Jews. But the establishment’s so-called two-state solution is impossible without bringing Jordan into the mix (i.e. outside the formal peace agenda). As stated above, this can only play into the hands of forces hostile to genuine peacemaking. So why not bring a democratic Jordan into the mix as a formal part of the peace process? This would be in direct opposition to the current left-wing paradigm and concurrently in opposition to the “phased struggle/Greater Palestine” plan of the PLO (Hamas calls such a plan a truce and along with Fatah agrees with its implementation). Israel and the US must call for the Jordanian king to initiate a true constitutional monarchy within his kingdom on the model of the UK or Spain. This way Israel can begin to renegotiate peace terms with a Palestinian leadership that represents a population on both banks of the river and that has formally been brought into the process from a brand-new beginning. This would mean the closing down of Oslo and the reinstating of the Madrid Conference.
If the Hashemite royal family refuses to cooperate, enormous pressure can be applied through Washington, the Madrid Conference and the UN. Meanwhile, Israel can begin to engage the West Bank leadership as a legitimate democratic polity within a Jordanian-Palestinian democratic federation. Israel would have greater leeway to spell out its security needs and territorial requirements, knowing full well that independent Palestinian sovereignty will eventually rest east of the river. The future of Jewish and/or Arab sovereignty for the West Bank/Judea-Samaria would be left to negotiations. However, the concept of Jerusalem as a united yet shared city would be understood from the outset.
As far as the region of the Middle East is concerned, Israel must work toward a Zone of Peace as the superstructure to a nuclear-weapons-free zone (this concept has been spelled out many times in this blog). By working directly for a democratic Jordan as the key element in a true two-state solution, Israel can begin to confront the regional balance of power as a whole. Without a Palestinian peace process that formally links Jordan with the negotiations, the risk of an Islamist Jihadist or secular rejectionist takeover of Amman is very high. Given the current regional risks, a peace process that leaves the Palestinian question in Jordan unsolved is just far too great a risk to take. The Camp David conundrum strongly suggests that the regional and local peace process must be a simultaneous process. Therefore, without the immediate inclusion of the total Arab population of both banks of the Jordan River in the peace negotiations, no progress on the regional Middle East can begin to take place.
At all three Camp David summits, the US played host as the indispensable international partner to either negotiations or security discussions. However, in this new era of global friction such a concept as an indispensable nation appears to have become an anachronism. The next Camp David Accords must have the backing of the entire international community in order to achieve success. A Zone of Peace in the Middle East with a nuclear-weapons-free zone and a new Palestinian paradigm can only be accomplished when all the international partners have begun to work together. This means all the participants of the Madrid International Conference, the UN Security Council (including India), and representatives of all Middle East nations interested in peace. This also means a Palestinian-Jordanian delegation that represents the democratic framework of a new constitutional monarchy — one that is recommitted to peace with its Jewish neighbors as it embraces the full and equal rights of all its citizens. Without democracy, radicalism in the Middle East cannot be defeated. If Israel and the US really share the same values, let that democracy begin in Jordan. Hopefully it will spread.