DEBKAfile Exclusive: A high-ranking Jordanian emissary presents Israel and Palestinians with new plan for linking Jordan and the West Bank
Our Middle East sources reveal: The plan calls for a new state framework linking Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, to be established before the rise of an independent Palestinian state. Amman is not thinking in terms of confederation or the West Bankâ€™s reversion to annexed Hashemite territory, the status it held before Jordanâ€™s 1967 war defeat.
Our Middle East sources reveal the outline was presented last week to the Israeli government and PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas by former Jordanian prime minister Abdul Salem Majali, who led the negotiations which culminated in the 1994 peace accord with Israel. Jordanians would also be part of the Palestinian team holding final-status negotiations with Israel. Amman is acting out of concern for the shaky Palestinian Authority, but DEBKAfile notes that the framework offered could draw Israeli into back door recognition of Hamasâ€™s role in Palestinian government.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia are not in favor of the plan. Cairo suspects that if it works on the West Bank, the Jordanians will want to scoop up the Gaza Strip too. Riyadh is historically opposed to any enhancement of the Hashemite throne, a former rival.
Olmert assigned Kadima member of the Knesset foreign affairs committee Othniel Schneller to discuss the initiative with Majali, who then presented it in broad lines to a number of Israeli politicians – from the left-wing Meretz leader Yossi Bailin to the right-wing minister Avigdor Lieberman. The king, he said, had not yet signed off onto the project whose exact shape has not yet been determined. It was gaining supporting among the heads of Jordanâ€™s security services as a strategy for fortifying the kingdom against the shocks of the US troop withdrawal from Iraq, which would leave the kingdom exposed on two fronts: Iraq, where Amman expects the US military to start pulling out in late summer, and the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority is its last legs. Its breakdown would engulf the territory in the sort of chaos and violence which has swept the Gaza Strip.
DEBKAfileâ€™s military sources disclose exclusively that the kingdom has set in train military and securing preparations for the coming upheaval. Its prospect has also persuaded King Abdullah that resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict is more urgent than ever.
The Jordanian initiative if finalized would kick off, according to Majali, with Jordanian-Palestinian talks for two objectives:
1. To delineate the relationship and define the political and security links between Jordan and the West Bank.
2. To forge a Jordanian-Palestinian consensus on the demands will put to Israel in negotiations for a permanent solution of the conflict.
Sources close to Israeli security circles doubt the tottering Palestinian Authority will survive long enough to see the final shape of the Jordanian plan. Amman will then have to choose another Palestinian partner, an alternative to Abbas.