The Palestinian Majority in Jordan

The problem with an Israeli separation from the Palestinians on the West Bank is the eventual certainty that such a separation would inevitably lead to a Palestinian integration encompassing both banks of the Jordan River. But the vast majority of Israeli politicians appear blind to this reality. The Hashemite Kingdom is essentially a minority, authoritarian-led political entity whose support could vanish overnight after the Palestinians outmaneuver Israel’s myopic politicians and establish their own mini-state west of the river.

Of course Israel’s natural impulse is to separate from West Bank Palestinians because this population has been hell-bent on Israel’s destruction for the last seventy years (if not longer). Palestinians have shown zero inclination to live in peace with the Jewish state. In fact, Palestinians do not even recognize the very concept of such a state, for if they did, they would not cling to the idea that Arab refugees from all the previous wars be resettled in the narrow confines of 1949-1967 Israel.

The great delusion of the Palestinians is that they hope to achieve a bi-national state west of the green line and a Palestinian state on the West Bank. This has been their goal since Israel captured the territory from Jordan in 1967. But even before the monumental events of the Six-Day War, the Palestinians had attempted to liberate the West Bank from Jordanian control throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s. They failed. In 1970, they attempted to overthrow the Jordanian king from his throne east of the river. Again they failed.

In the aftermath of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, the Palestinians changed tactics. In conjunction with a perpetual use of terrorism, they added diplomacy to their arsenal. If only Israel would withdraw from the West Bank and also allow the Palestinian refugees to return to “Israel proper” (a sliver of land west of the West Bank), then all would be forgiven and the Middle East could return to peace — but not necessarily including the Palestinian majority in Jordan.

The separation of Israelis and Palestinians on the West Bank would be complemented by an integration of the two populations on the coastal plain and in the Galilee and Jerusalem (refugee return). In such a scenario, the eventual goal of the PLO was some type of federal relationship between Jordan, the West Bank state, and a bi-national state west of the green line. Unbelievably, a majority of European leftists and many naïve Americans bought into the idea of a such Palestinian West Bank state as an anchor for future Palestinian ambitions.

So too did the Israeli Left. While hardly anyone in Israel would ever accept a return of a token of Palestinian refugees, the idea of a West Bank state has been the only peace structure that left-wing politicians — including some in the center, like Yair Lapid and even on the right, like Benjamin Netanyahu — have ever really embraced. But the majority of Israelis are skeptical, and for good reason. When Israel left Gaza, ending a thirty-six year occupation, peace was not achieved. Rockets replaced greenhouses. Human shields were used as a propaganda mechanism in a Palestinian rocket war against an “occupation” that no longer existed. Israelis asked: How would a West Bank withdrawal be any different?

Then there is the reality of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Leftist Israelis believe that Jordan can remain an absolute monarchy with a pro-Israeli king far into the future. This belief has no basis in reality. If the Jordanian King is to be a crucial player in the Israeli security structure for a West Bank Palestinian state (as both the left and Lapid have declared) then what will happen when the Palestinian majority on the East Bank decides to ask the king for their complete democratic rights?

I viewed Yair Lapid’s speech in New York in September of 2015, when he stated directly that Israeli security on the Jordan River Valley was dependent not solely on the IDF, but on Jordan as well. Lapid also said that he anticipated that West Bank Palestinians would eventually ask Israel to grant them either freedom from occupation or Israeli citizenship. Lapid said he feared that day because he wanted Israel to stay both Jewish and democratic. But what of East Bank Palestinians? Can’t Israeli politicians envision a similar situation where democratic constitutional demands are brought before the Jordanian king? And why is it that no politician in Israel, believing adamantly in Israeli-Palestinian separation and the so-called two-state-solution, fears the day when a demilitarized mini-state on the West Bank wants to link in federation with a democratic Palestinian majority state in Jordan?

Yes, the status-quo is untenable. Yes, Israel cannot remain both Jewish and democratic without an end to the occupation. Yes, Israel needs a peace plan for the Palestinian question and for the region as a whole — including the future of nuclear weapons. But separation from a West Bank Palestinian population hell-bent on Israel’s eventual eradication, and a reliance on a shaky monarchy in Jordan to oversee Israel’s security in perpetuity, are nothing more than a fool’s bet.

Leftists around the world might want Israel to play the fool. And many of Israel’s own politicians might be fools, but the people of Israel are certainly not fooled by this so-called Palestinian diplomacy. A West Bank PLO state will eventually link up with the Palestinian majority in Jordan. Once this happens, greater Palestine will become neighbors with Shiite Iraq and Iran.

Israel needs an alternative peace plan. Here is a synopsis of my alternative as published many times by this newspaper: 1). Israel should immediately recognize a Palestinian state on the West Bank as a partner in negotiations. 2). Israel should propose that the territories known as Area A, Area B, and Area C on the West Bank be permanently shared within the context of a political condominium. 3). Israel should invite all the nations of the Middle East to a conference on the establishment of both a Zone of Peace and a nuclear-weapons-free zone. 4). Israel should declare unequivocally that it has no desire to continue the occupation of the West Bank for even one more minute, but its rights as an equal sovereign to Jerusalem and as a Jewish state within the region must be accepted. 5). Israel will adhere to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and remain committed to democracy and democratic values throughout the region of the Middle East. 6). Israel will abide by the rules of the Zone of Peace and will work with all the nations of the world to maintain the zone’s integrity.

Recently media reports have surfaced that the idea of a West Bank Palestinian state was being considered by the Obama administration to be offered before the UN Security Council. For Israel and the Sunni Arab states of the region, such a diplomatic event would be a grave setback on their road toward greater cooperation. West Bank Palestinians must never be allowed to become linked with their brothers east of the river without a direct Israeli presence on the West Bank itself. In other words, there must never be a greater Palestine allied with an Iran hell-bent on hegemony throughout the region. In such a scenario, Israel’s very future would be at stake.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and all current Israeli ministers and opposition leaders have a responsibility to broach an alternative to Obama’s ill-conceived plan. Peace can only come when Israel’s politicians begin to realize that a home for the Palestinian people on the West Bank cannot be bought at the expense of the Palestinian majority in Jordan. Because eventually the king of Jordan will be overthrown. Therefore, separation is impossible. The only way to assure Israel’s security on the Jordan River is for Israelis to be living there. If there is to be democracy in Jordan (and there eventually will be), this reality must only be achieved with an Israeli-Palestinian political condominium on the West Bank and in Jerusalem.

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).