Official Washington loves its “king”. The world’s most powerful republic is completely enthralled with a pro-American monarchy. Republicans or Democrats, it doesn’t matter. Jordan and its minority-backed kingdom can do no wrong. But what if Jordan is really central to the problem? And what if the only viable solution to the question of a Palestinian state requires a democratic Jordanian component?
Let’s face facts: No electable Israeli government can subscribe to the idea of the so-called two-state solution. After twenty years of the Oslo peace process, potential Israeli centrists will now always vote for the right-wing when confronted with this terrible choice. But the Israeli Left is caught in a time warp. They view a West Bank Palestinian state as the only solution. But the trouble is that they have lost the vast majority of Jewish voters, and the likelihood of their recapture is next to nil. The Left and the Center have had their chances (2000 and 2008), and the Palestinians rejected both offers. The Israeli right-wing is now in ascendancy, and even though Bibi pays lip service to the two-state solution, the vast majority of his supporters don’t believe in it.
But paradigms die hard, especially in Washington D.C. There used to be a time when a small faction of conservative Republicans would claim (like the Israeli Right) that “Jordan was Palestine”; however, those days clearly ended with the rise of Oslo. Even so, Jordan has hardly ever been considered to be just a component of the solution to Palestine. For the faction of the American Right who considered Jordan to be Palestine, it was mistakenly always taken to be the full answer to the problem. But times have clearly changed in Washington. For many years now both Republicans and Democrats have consistently viewed Jordan as somehow separate from the issue of Palestine. And even though Jordan proper has a majority-Palestinian population (larger than the West Bank), official Washington supports the absolute power of the Royal family in Jordan. This had been especially true even among Liberals. And since the time of King Hussein and his withdrawal of legal and administrative jurisdiction from the disputed West Bank in 1988, Washington’s support for the absolute monarchy has been rock solid.
But if the two-state solution (separate from Jordan) is unworkable politically, the one-state solution, from the river to the sea, is hardly an alternative. Neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis want to be the minority in a bi-national structure. Both peoples desire a form of national sovereignty that only majority control can give them. So where does this dual dilemma leave the unending conflict? Where it’s always been — without the parameters of a solution. In the entire history of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, only three principal structures have been proposed: The partition of the land to form two states west of the Jordan River, the creation of a bi-national state west of the river, or some kind of East Bank Jordanian monarchical control on the West Bank. Never has official Washington proposed a democratic solution east of the river in conjunction with a form of condominium (shared-rule) for Jerusalem and the disputed territories of the West Bank.
But the first three proposals have never come to fruition, and they are now clearly unworkable. The Jordanian Option — where the Royal family would control the Palestinian population on the West Bank — had a two-decade lifespan and died in 1988. The bi-national state idea has never been accepted and never will. And even though official Washington, Ramallah, and Jerusalem continue to cling to the idea of a second partition to the land of the original League of Nations Mandate (including Jordan), the so-called two-state solution (historically a three-state solution) lies on its death bed.
So could a democratic Jordan, with a capital in Jerusalem and dual sovereignty over the disputed territories, become the only reasonable alternative? Not without an American initiative. The royals in Amman won’t move without a firm Washington commitment toward a model for constitutional monarchy in conjunction with a capital in Jerusalem. The Hashemites have to be convinced that they will not only survive in some capacity, but they will flourish. In order for the new plan to begin, it will most likely have to be pushed forward by an American president with a vision for Jordan-Palestine that goes much further than the present-day adherence to unrestrained royalty. The Hashemites can’t be left with a real choice in the matter. The same is true for the Palestinians east of the river. As a majority they can have a form of real democracy, but it can’t be inclusive of any political party that opposes either the plan, the peace treaty with Israel, or the Jewish state’s right to existence.
The Israeli Center and moderate Right will certainly find the idea of an Arab capital in Jerusalem to be difficult to swallow. But for a genuine, end-to-conflict peace within the framework of a Hashemite constitutional umbrella, strategic depth on the Jordan River and a share of Judea and Samaria, why not vote for peace? Centrists will no longer have to vote automatically with the far-Right. With the old two-state solution dead and buried, they’ll have a real choice, based on a real plan that will make a new Center coalition possible. With a reasonable new peace plan, even a genuine national coalition (between all Israeli factions — Right, Left and Center) is possible. The peace camp in Israel can only be rejuvenated through the Center and the moderate Right, and only by an overthrow of the old Oslo paradigm.
As far as the Palestinians are concerned, they know that the West Bank has long since lost its capacity to be truly independent. Water, economy, sanitation, energy, communications and security will by necessity become a shared proposition. The separation of Israel and Palestine on the West Bank became impossible years ago. The most astute observers realized this truth as far back as the 1980’s. By linking themselves with their brothers and sisters across the river, the Palestinians will only be doing what they originally intended in the first place. Only instead of a Greater Palestine where they control all of Jordan and the West Bank, their ambition for liberation will be supplanted by true peace and reconciliation. It is only in this new context that the Israeli public will accept a Palestinian state.
Without a Jordanian component, peace between Israel and the Arab World is impossible. Official Washington has lost its way in the Middle East peace process. Its think tanks are intellectually bankrupt as it clings to a model of superpower management that has long since lost its effectiveness. The Hashemite Kingdom must progress toward democracy. The Arab peoples deserve and desire freedom. The British Empire concept of absolute monarchy must give way to a true constitutional monarchy. This can only be accomplished within a structure that would be acceptable in Britain or Holland or Sweden (all constitutional monarchies). Parliament must rule supreme and the King must become a servant of the people. If not, the King might not survive in the turbulent times of today’s Middle East. With all of Jerusalem on edge, we allies sit on a prospective powder keg. It is time for some new thinking. It is time for Washington to stand up for its values in order to save its interests.