Understanding Jordan’s Gas Protests

If you ever thought there was even a remote chance for a successful peace agreement through an Israeli withdrawal from the strategic West Bank, think again. The Palestinians have their own agenda, and a lasting peace between Israel, Jordan and Palestine is not a part of it. For years now, the long-term strategy of the PLO has been the concept of “phased struggle”. After the Yom Kippur War of 1973, the Palestinians abandoned the idea that Israel could be defeated in one full swoop. Instead, the concept of “victory by stages” was adopted.

Since the famous Oslo agreement, the global Left has aided and abetted the PLO (including many Israeli groups like Peace Now) to blur the concept of “phased struggle” with a false sense of hope regarding the so-called “peace process”. But the true nature of Palestinian intentions, however blurred by hopeful naivety, occasionally rears its poisonous head. The latest example has been the gas protests in Jordan (to be explained toward the end).

Originally, the PLO Charter defined Palestine as all the land of the British Mandate for Palestine. This would include Israel, the West Bank and Jordan. However, when it became clear to the PLO leadership that these territories could not be liberated by an anti-American, Arab alliance working in cooperation with a major outside power (like the Soviet Union), the PLO dramatically changed tactics. At first they attempted a civil war in Jordan (Black September). Their hope was to use the East Bank (Jordan/East Palestine) as a base to eventually liberate the remainder of the territory running westward to the Mediterranean Sea. In other words, at that time, the geography of “historic Palestine” stretched from Amman all the way to Tel Aviv.

When Black September failed, the PLO began a deliberate policy of obfuscation. The overthrow of the Jordanian monarchy was never spoken about again, and “historic Palestine” was redefined as encompassing all the land from the “river to the sea” — that is, excluding Jordan altogether. The new idea was that Israel, within either the borders established by the UN in 1947 (Resolution 181) or the armistice lines of 1949, would become an acceptable temporary entity. That is, the West Bank would become the new PLO base as an interim measure to eventually move either east or west, depending on the prospects for a regional “resistance alignment” in their favor.

The PLO leadership approached the Oslo agreement as a diplomatic achievement intended to enhance their “phased struggle” concept. Israel, under Rabin and Peres, saw the accords differently. For them, a military-strategic withdrawal from the Jordan River Valley was never contemplated. Similarly, as Labor hawks, Rabin and Peres advocated for a demilitarized West Bank Palestinian zone — to be surrounded by Israel — and in no way independent or concretely linked to Jordan’s border. Jerusalem has always maintained that without a human mechanism for Israeli observation and supervision on the Jordan River, a peace accord would not be signed.

Oslo succeeded for the Palestinians in the sense that the world has forgotten about “phased struggle”. The West Bank is now recognized as solely Palestinian land and not necessarily linked to any security component. Even though the PLO has never agreed to the Rabin-Peres formula to maintain both Israeli and Jordanian security (on the Jordan River) in perpetuity, most Western politicians and their advisors insist that the so-called “two-state solution” is still feasible. But the Palestinian insistence on a direct border with Jordan is precisely why Oslo has failed.

However, Jordan is a state with a large Palestinian community — larger than the West Bank and comprising a majority of Jordan’s population. Therefore the risks of another Black September are constantly being monitored within the Hashemite Kingdom. There is no way in the world that either Jordan or Israel would ever agree to a West Bank Palestinian state with an unmonitored border at its eastern entrance. Also, Jordan refuses to be Israel’s monitoring agent for fear of destabilization internally or the inevitability of complications with Israel itself. Therefore the task has been solely left to Israel. Given the unrealistic expectations of the PLO, the Oslo peace process has remained permanently deadlocked.

When Israel signed its recent gas deal with Jordan, the protests within the royal kingdom by Palestinians revealed the true nature of their long-term intentions. Many of the Palestinians actually claimed that the Israeli natural gas located in the Mediterranean Sea was stolen. But how could it be stolen? Israel owns the adjacent sea-born natural resources off its coast by international law. No country in the world accepts the borders of UN resolution 181, as an alternative to UN Security Council resolution 242. Resolution 181 is completely defunct due to the fact that Israel was attacked by a multitude of Arab armies in the aftermath of UN acceptance and Israel’s Declaration of Independence in 1948. Therefore, there is no prospective Palestinian land within direct proximity to the gas fields which could ever be recognized by any international court.

The vast majority of Israelis have always understood that Palestinians do not accept a Jewish state anywhere within the geographic confines of historic Israel-Palestine (Jordan, the West Bank, Israel). In fact, there has never been an independent state on this territory other than biblical and modern Israel and the British-created East Bank state of Jordan. The Palestinian national movement is a product of the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty west of the Jordan River. In fact, without this Jewish presence, the Arabs living in what was called southern Syria under Turkish rule would have been more than happy with an alternative Arab caliphate to replace the Ottoman Sultan.

It’s time to face facts. The idea of an independent West Bank Palestinian state is not only over, it was never really on the table. Yes, the final answer to peace between Israel and the Palestinians will require two states; but such a peace will only be possible when the entire area of historic Israel-Palestine is included. To think conventionally is to ignore the reality of Jordan’s recent gas protests. Palestinian-Jordanians reject Israel and the peace signed by the Jordanian monarchy with the Jewish state in 1994. They, like their counterparts on the West Bank, reject Israel in total. It’s not just a question of occupation, but fundamentally a question of Israel’s existence. For Obama and Washington to say differently is to remain blind to reality.

The Middle East in a state of chaos, and the US has provided little leadership. The Palestinians, on both banks of the Jordan River and in Gaza, remain committed to Israel’s eventual destruction. Hamas appears to be on the ascendancy everywhere within the Palestinian community. And Hamas would not hesitate to work with Iran and its Shiite resistance front, which now stretches across the entire breadth of the northern Levant.

Unless the US government can provide leadership on Syria and across the Levant, who in their right mind would ever listen to a lame-duck president (Obama) on the future parameters of Israel-Palestine? In the Middle East today, cooperation with Russia has become a necessity across the board. Israel can only dismiss anything the UN professes as international law, given its complete ineffectiveness with regard to the devastation in Syria and Iraq. And as far as a viable peace settlement for the lands of historic Israel-Palestine, the world has been geographically duped by the PLO.

The true two-state solution will consist of Israel in the west, a democratic Arab state east of the Jordan River, and a shared-rule condominium for the territory of the West Bank-Judea and Samaria. Jerusalem will remain an open city, the capital of these two states.

Given the failure of the Obama administration to understand the essential geographic unity of Israel and Jordan at the river, and given the collapse of any kind of US Middle East policy in its entirety, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least that any Washington-led UN resolution brought before the Security Council could be vetoed by Moscow. This is especially true of any resolution covering the future of the strategic West Bank. The Russians fundamentally understand the significance of strategic geography. Putin has outmaneuvered Obama for eight years, so why would he stop now?

The Middle East has become a proxy war between the US and Russia. Moscow has already demonstrated that it has become an essential power within the region and will not hesitate to provide support to its allies. Washington, on the other hand, dithers and has shown itself to be a “paper tiger” unable to do anything about Syria, Iran and the Russians. Under such a situation, and with Palestinian intentions clear to anyone with eyes to see (thanks to Jordan’s gas protests), Israel cannot do anything but scoff at the empty parameters set by a US president who remains intellectually frozen by Palestinian propaganda.

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).