Steven Horowitz

The Arrogance of Liberal Washington

If you listen to the Liberal establishment in Washington D.C., you’re continually bombarded by two infallible truisms: First, that Israel holds a preponderance of the power in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and second, that only partitioning of the land between the “river and the sea” (the so called “two-state solution”) can create peace between the two sides. In the American Liberal worldview, these postulates are gospel. No other paradigms can be considered. Each time the two-state solution fails, it’s either shrugged off as bad timing, or some other lame excuse is given. The triangular theory of the conflict (Jordan, Israel, Palestine) is never mentioned. Similarly, Israel’s place within the region of the Middle East is hardly ever mentioned.
Now, once again, the two-state solution has failed, and the prospect of a third Palestinian uprising has become a distinct possibility. But the Liberal establishment continues to push their arrogant designs for another attempt (the fourth) at squaring the three-sided equation which is the conflict of historic Israel-Palestine. Why three sides? It’s simple. Since the inception of the modern era of the Middle East nation-state system, there have been (and still are) three contenders for power within the geographic confines of historic Israel-Palestine. But the Jordanian aspect to the mathematics of the conflict is never considered by the Liberal American establishment. Jordan and its king (another US-supported absolute monarch) have become sacrosanct in official and unofficial (think tank) Washington.
The same is true in Israel. For nearly seventy years, a tacit understanding has been established between the Jordanian monarchy and the Jewish state. Israel and Jordan will not allow for a recalcitrant Palestinian state to emerge unfettered within the boundaries of the East Bank or the West Bank. In the early 1970’s, Israel blocked Assad’s Syrian entry into the Palestinian-Jordanian civil war. And since that time, the institution of a West Bank state has been denied to the Palestinians without severe limitation on its borders and potential sovereignty.
Whether it was the variation on the old “Jordanian Option” of Rabin or its Labor Party successor, Ehud Barak’s approach to the Oslo peace process, full extension to the Jordan River by a Palestinian entity has been considered unconscionable by both Jerusalem and Amman. Remember, it was the Israeli Labor Party who created the first settlements on the West Bank. These were farm-military outposts situated strategically on the Jordan River Valley. From 1967 onward, Israel has had an internationally respected claim over the territory of the West Bank (UN Resolution 242) for the establishment of a security corridor to be negotiated between the states to the conflict.
Jordan has remained the silent partner in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. The last thing Jordan wants is a Palestinian state in full and total control of the Jordan River crossings of the West Bank. Of course Israel concurs. But the Palestinians have their own plans, and they don’t include a final permanent end to the conflict. This is not understood in Liberal Washington. But it resonates strongly in official Israel and Jordan. The Palestinians have a game-plan, and it includes both the West Bank and Jordan. Of course its ultimate aim is the liberation of all of historic Palestine (from the Jordanian desert to the Mediterranean Sea). Unlike the view from the Washington Liberal establishment, the peace process doesn’t break down over the Israeli settlement blocks. After all, these blocks straddle the old armistice lines (the Green Line). No, what is completely unrecognized in Liberal Washington circles are the real intentions of the PLO. Without a full extension of their border to the river and control of the same, a West Bank Palestinian state holds no strategic value for the PLO. Hence the so-called “peace process” negotiations always break down over the issue of control over the Jordan River Valley.
Yet official and unofficial Washington persists. They insist that the two-state solution is the only game in town, and without a peace process anarchy will reign. And yes, after the negotiations of 2000, anarchy did reign. But in 2008, the second time the two-state solution failed, the Palestinians did not revolt on the West Bank. Now the situation is unclear. With the current breakdown, the PLO leadership has been unable to firmly implant its hegemonic agenda through direct negotiations. This failure of the PLO’s negotiated strategy for a two-state solution has completely demoralized the Palestinian population. So now, as the leadership pursues a unilateral approach of action through the UN and the International Criminal Court, the West Bank multitude will either lead with an action of their own, or they’ll continue to follow Abbas’s lead. A nonviolent uprising, Gandhi style, would work much better with the type of strategy that hopes to gain international support.
But if the two state solution is unworkable, why is it still considered the only game in town? The clear answer is that Israel needs Jordan more than it needs an unstable and cold peace, and the same is true for the US. Jordan is the great buffer state. It protects Saudi Arabia from Syria and Israel from a hostile Iraq. The failure of the militant Arab nationalism was primarily due to the tacit understanding between Jordan and Israel. As a firm ally of the US, Jordan is the link between Saudi Arabia and Israel, both also US allies. In Liberal Washington, the view of the PLO has always been that they could be brought “in from the cold”. In other words, they would accept the idea of a demilitarized West Bank state that would have a loose economic confederation with Jordan and not seek its overthrow. Arafat was a great actor. He somehow convinced the US Liberal establishment that he could be a part of the American formation of allies which would stretch from Cairo through Jerusalem and Amman to Riyadh. But not without control of the Jordan River Valley.
Arafat and the PLO leadership were playing the long game. For them, while Palestine might be weak, the Muslim world certainly was not. Sooner or later, the weight of numbers and history would shift in favor of the fifty or so Islamic states of a region which encompassed all of North Africa and a good part of the Asian land mass. A “little Israel”, without strategic depth, pushed back to the pre-1967 lines and without access to the crucial Jordan River Valley, was the Arafat strategy. It still is the strategy of the PLO. Because Israel does not own a preponderance of power throughout the region, the Palestinians hope to use the so-called Israeli-Palestinian conflict to adjust the geo-strategic dimensions of the Israeli-Arab conflict. This fact is NOT understood in Liberal Washington. The so-called “peace process” has not been about peace at all. It has been about achieving strategic advantage by “other means”.
Now the region of the Middle East is in a seemingly stalemated civil war. The longer it lasts, the shakier Jordan becomes. But the Liberal Washington establishment continues to pursue its Oslo delusion. Before the end of the Obama administration, one last stand will be taken in order to bring the sides to the table. But without a clear answer to the real PLO strategy (not to mention Hamas), and certainly without even a vague hint as to a regional US policy, Obama would be the ultimate fool to allow Kerry to attempt another round of two-state diplomacy.
The future of Jordan within the regional system must take precedence over Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. In fact, the regional system as a whole has now been blurred by the rise of both the Islamic State and the potential of an independent Kurdistan. Whither the Palestinians, their designs are well understood in both Amman and Jerusalem. With a transnational Sunni jihad approaching the shaky polity of Jordan, or its Iranian counterpart, even a leftist Israeli government would be out of its mind to give up the Jordan River Valley. Just like the Liberal establishment in Washington, the PLO needs a new and true strategy for peace. The game it has been playing for the last twenty years might have found resonance in the deaf corridors of PhD Liberal Washington, but in the real world of political-military planning and possibilities, nobody is buying their tired act.
Peace in the Middle East is simply impossible without a serious interfaith religious dimension. This requirement is least understood in Liberal Washington. But until Jews and Muslims perceive the other in the terms of each other’s specific revelations, Torah and Koran, a genuine peace is impossible. The peace between mutually- antagonistic nationalisms will not work. This reality has no constituency in Liberal Washington. But on the ground in the Middle East, between and among believers, it is the only way forward. Only with G-d and the conviction by the populations of a Divine Plan can the mutual hatred cease.
To square the triangle between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians will require new thinking and inspiration. The way forward will be complicated. Of course it will require a political and economic agenda that spans both sides of the Jordan River. Without a democratic Jordanian component, the triangle simply can’t be squared. However, Jordan must remain a buffer state, and the Hashemite dynasty must continue to have a role in any democratic construction. This is true in Amman as well as (perhaps) Jerusalem. But the Palestinians in these territories are the majority, and until the Jordanian king comes forward with a democratic plan to meet the needs of his people, nothing will change other than Jordan becoming shakier and shakier. Although Jordan and Israel are tacit allies, time is still on the side of the Palestinians. But even that clock is running down. Anything is now possible, including total war.
Most importantly, we must all see the other as a child of G-d. Without a new and meaningful dialogue from the ground up, person to person, nothing can be accomplished. Only by seeking the Divine spark in each individual soul can true peace have a future. Politics and history must be conceived of as the province of the Supreme Being; only then will the triangle be squared — as peace reigns from an earthly and heavenly partnership. Let the will of G-d be done.

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).