My Response to the Jordanian Ambassador

Recently Jordan’s first ambassador to Israel, Marwan Muasher, published a very unique article claiming that the so-called two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is most probably at a dead end (September 15, 2018 on the publications page of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace). The article, entitled “Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian plan likely to heighten Mideast tensions”, is probably the very first admission by an Arab dignitary that a new model for the future of the West Bank has now become necessary.

Mr. Muasher is currently the Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment, and oversees research in Washington and Beirut on the Middle East. He has been a high official of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan including its Deputy Prime Minister. Mr. Muashwer has become a severe critic of the current US president’s approach to Middle East peace making — especially the claim that the Jerusalem issue has been decided. Trump’s claim about Jerusalem, of course, is patently false.

Mr. Muasher states in his article: “The US’ apparent strategy is to decide a priori the fate of Jerusalem and the refugees in Israel’s favor and to force the Palestinians to accept an inferior deal. Whether the US unveils the details of its plans at the United Nations General Assembly session or not, it’s likely to exacerbate tensions in the region.”

Trump did not unveil his long anticipated plan, but he made everyone uncomfortable by stating that he now believes in the two-state solution, albeit with the question of Jerusalem already decided. He did this in the presence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. For his part, Netanyahu also agrees with a two-state solution. However Netanyahu’s Palestinian state would be demilitarized, without a capital in Jerusalem, and where Israel is in total security control of this so-called “sovereign” Palestinian state. This has been Netanyahu’s position since his Bar-Ilan speech in 2009.

Press reports had originally given credibility to the idea that Trump would propose a strange confederation idea whereby the monarchy in Jordan would have some kind of jurisdiction over, and with, an undefined ambiguous Palestinian entity on the West Bank. Currently there are no confederations anywhere in the world. Trump was not expected to propose a Jordanian-Palestinian federal republic or or any kind of Jordanian-Palestinian democratic outcome based on the concept of one person, one vote. The American establishment has always been opposed to a Jordanian option plan with a federal and democratic Palestinian-Jordanian component. Trump is no exception.

Mr. Muasher continues: “But the fact remains that the parameter of this (Trump’s strange confederation) deal are so inferior, indeed insulting, that no Palestinian or Arab leader would accept it. Visits by presidential advisers Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner in recent months have underscored this fact. Palestinian leader Mahmaud Abbas has recently revealed, for example, that he and the Jordanian leadership rejected a US proposal for a confederation of Palestinian areas.”

Now the Trump administration is apparently changing its tune and accepting the idea of some kind of two-state solution for the West Bank. After twenty-five years of negotiation failure, what on earth enables President Trump to believe that his administration will somehow succeed where everyone else has failed?

Mr. Muasher continues with his assessment: “The international community seems to be ignoring that the majority of the new Palestinian generation have lost hope in the two-state solution and shifted their focus to demand civic and political rights and raising the cost of the occupation. The most likely outcome is a continuation of the status quo, while the ongoing construction of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — now home to 650,000 settlers — forecloses the prospect for a two-state solution”.

So what does Trump mean by a two-state solution? Is he really expecting Netanyahu to accept the removal of tens of thousands of Jews from the areas of Judea and Samaria? Does he really believe that Israel would ever accept a Palestinian-Jordanian border without a permanent Israeli security presence? Does he really believe that the Palestinians would ever accept a token capital somewhere outside of historic Jerusalem?

Ambassador Muasher concludes: “The Bottom Line: — The international community must come to grips with the death of the two-state solution. It’s no longer taboo to talk about alternatives, including variations of the one-state solution. That presents a whole new set of problems as the Jewish and Palestinian populations in areas under Israel’s control approach parity”.

Here is my response to the Jordanian Ambassador, Marwan Muasher, as published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: “Two vital aspects to the conflict are crystal clear: Jerusalem must become the shared capital of Israel and a sovereign democratic Arab state, and Israel will never relinquish its eastern security line on the heights and valley of the Jordan River. Within such a context, a Palestinian-Jordanian federal republic (one person, one vote federation), with Jerusalem as its capital, and autonomous zones within a shared-rule condominium on the West Bank, appears to be the only answer. A Trump confederation (non-democratic) plan, between the Jordanian monarchy and a Palestinian sub-state entity with a fictitious capital somewhere outside historic Jerusalem, is a non-starter. So too is the one-state solution a non-starter. Arabs and Jews must learn to live together and govern themselves on the West Bank-Judea and Samaria. But absolute sovereignty can only be applicable west of the green line and east of the Jordan River. The King of Jordan can support such a plan within a true constitutional democracy or he can reject it and face the consequences of the democratic nations of the world. The only side capable of conquest (in today’s stalemate) would be an extreme right-wing Israeli government with a green light “go ahead” from an equally extreme US Republican administration. Such a scenario is slightly more than a remote possibility given the new anti-establishment nature of the post-2016 Republican Party. However, the more the Palestinians push for a one-state solution along with a renewal of intifada violence, the greater the likelihood of war and a stream of Arab refugees eastward. The more the Palestinians clamor for (democracy) in a one-state solution, the more the request will be met with the slogan — Jordan is the Palestinian state. While the huge Palestinian population east of the river must become a central factor in any potential democratic and constitutional settlement to the conflict, the questions as to the future of the West Bank and Jerusalem will always remain key. I completely disagree on the potential materialization of bi-nationalism (the one-state solution). But Sir, you are absolutely correct (when you declare) that the two-state solution is dead, and what is very much needed is an alternative model.”

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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