Abbas: “Palestine and Jordan are One People”

I could hardly believe my eyes. For once, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the truth about the actual reality of Jordan-Palestine. Not only was Jordan a crucial part of the historic Mandate for Palestine, it also represents one of two recognized Arab states within a vast territory established to be the Jewish homeland. Yet the Palestinian leadership (the PA, recognized by the vast majority of the UN General Assembly) will never be satisfied until it pushes Israel back to the armistice lines of 1949. Why are the Palestinians so fixated on these old armistice lines? Because they understand two very important and salient points: First, Israel will become militarily indefensible, having been forced to retreat to the cease-fire lines of 1949. Second, Palestine will be able to militarize by eventually overthrowing the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan. Make no mistake, this is indeed their plan. That’s why they have continually refused to agree to any Israeli presence along the Jordan River throughout the entire Oslo negotiation process. In fact, the delineation of the future border between Palestine and Jordan has been the central sticking point between Israel and the PA in over twenty years of negotiations.

The so-called two-state solution rests on the false assumption that Jordan and Palestine represent two separate and distinct national entities that will remain as unique, differentiated polities in perpetuity. In this way, Palestine (the West Bank) will remain demilitarized and sandwiched between the Kingdom of Jordan and Israel. In theory, this so-called solution might indeed work, but only if the border at the Jordan River becomes sealed. This, of course, would require an established and permanent Israeli presence, something the PA is loath to accept. In general, the Palestinian leadership refrains from discussing their end-game strategy. This is why the actual Abbas statement was so stunning. What the Palestinian President said turned the so-called two-state solution into a dramatic three-state solution. This three-state solution has the dire potential of becoming a Greater-Palestine militarized outcome. Here’s the Palestinian president’s exact quote: “Jordan and Palestine are one people living in two states”.

This sounds more like East and West Germany before reunification, not a workable peace plan. And it certainly bodes ill for the generally accepted concept of the so-called two-state solution. What if the idea of a referendum on unification begins to circulate throughout Jordan and the West Bank state of Palestine, what then? Israel certainly couldn’t stop the process. And what if the king of Jordan refuses to allow the referendum to go forward? Wouldn’t he be accused of an authoritarian action, and wouldn’t that lead to a desire for democracy east of the river? Remember, if Palestine and Jordan are one people, and if you add up their respective constituency numbers, a conservative estimate would probably give the Hashemite king something in the order of 10 or 15 percent of the prospective vote. In other words, the potential separation of one people into two permanent states is a dubious concept (to say the least).

The permanent demilitarization of the Palestinian state therefore becomes a dubious concept. If the so-called two-state solution is built on the premise that Palestine represents only the West Bank, then demilitarization can be constructed within the peace process itself. But if Palestine and Jordan are one people, then demilitarization would eventually include Jordan. This, of course, will never happen. It is one thing to believe that Israel could protect an island West Bank State of Palestine (an island because it will be surrounded by Israeli military forces); it is quite another to expect that Israel could determine the military future of the territory east of the river. That fact alone places a prospective Palestinian militarization of Jordan outside the peace process. This risks the entire purpose of the present Oslo project, because the so-called two-state solution is all about a demilitarized West Bank State, and the East Bank is assumed (wrongly) to remain as a permanent status-quo construction. Without the king in total control of Jordan, the so-called two-state solution is in dire jeopardy of unraveling sometime in the future.

Of course this represents the famed Palestinian strategy of “phased struggle”. Long forgotten by the liberal American establishment — especially the Democratic Party, the news media, and even the administration of President Obama — “phased struggle” becomes much more realistic when the Palestinian president allows himself to slip up and claim that “Jordan and Palestine are one people living in two states”. But Israelis of all political stripes haven’t forgotten “phased struggle”. That’s why it is universally accepted in Israel that the IDF must remain as a military presence on the Jordan River in perpetuity. Hence the twenty-two year deadlock over the nature of the border between Israel and Palestine.

For there to be a successful peace process, the issue of Jordan and Palestine must be worked out ahead of time. We’ve already tried separating the two states, but they won’t (and can’t) stay separate. Until this fact is recognized, the peace process will remain moribund. Even if the Israeli Left was to win election, and relations with the Obama administration were as close as an NAACP meeting in the White House, still Jerusalem would insist on an IDF presence on the Jordan River. One could only hope that Obama would insist on the same. But the current leadership of the Palestinian people would simply reject such an outcome. They’ve already done it three times. The most glaring example was in the summer of 2000. Just ask Bill and Hillary Clinton how much of the West Bank Israeli Prime Minister Barak was willing to give Palestinian President Arafat. Then ask them how and why Arafat turned down the offer. It had everything to do with the Jordan River Valley and a prospective border between Palestine and Jordan. The same was true in 2008 and 2011 and 2014.

If the Palestinian people are united across the Jordan River (as the Palestinian leadership claims), then for there to be a successful peace process, four crucial points of divergence must change. First, the territory of the conflict must include Jordan. Second, Israeli military presence on the Jordan River must be accepted by the Palestinians. Third, Palestine must be allowed to have a full-fledged military east of the river. Fourth, both Jordan and Palestine must begin a legitimate democratic unification as part and parcel of the peace process itself. Without these four changes, peace will not be possible.

It doesn’t matter that so many left-wing intellectuals have a vested interest in a two-state paradigm whose geographic, political and military construction makes little or no sense. Let history be the judge. What hasn’t worked for twenty-two years simply won’t work, period. The earth is round. No amount of nostalgia for the flat-earth paradigm will bring it back. The same is true for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. To paraphrase President Abbas, Palestine and Jordan are one people living (temporarily) in two states, until such time as they become one state. This situation is real. The essence of the so-called two-state solution is in fact three states. And two of those states would most certainly unite, leaving Israel confronted with a militarized Greater Palestine. That is the goal of Palestinian “phased struggle”. Thank you, President Abbas, for pointing out the truth. Maybe it will become an established premise, leading to a new, more realistic peace plan.

About the Author
Steven Horowitz has been a farmer, journalist and teacher spanning the last 45 years. He resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. During the 1970's, he lived on kibbutz in Israel, where he worked as a shepherd and construction worker. In 1985, he was the winner of the Christian Science Monitor's Peace 2010 international essay contest. He was a contributing author to the book "How Peace came to the World" (MIT Press).
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