T. Belman. This article was written just a month after Pres Trump was inaugurated. Six months later I hosted a conference at the Begin Center in Jerusalem called The Jordan Option. All aspects of this option were discussed. The Jordan Opposition Coalition was represented by its founder Dr Mudar Zahran and Abed Amaala, the head of a million man Bedouin clan in Jordan. Close attention to the ideas presented, was paid by the PMO in Jerusalem and the Trump team in DC.
These ideas were further developed in my article, Memo to Kushner, published in Feb 2019. Dr. Mudar Zahran addressed members of the EU Parliament (video) and debated at the Oxford Union delivering a pro-Israel message. Be sure to watch both.
I like to believe that it was our initiative and our ideas that lead to the Abraham Accords and their progeny of peace deals yet to be born. Dr Mudar Zahran strongly believes in cooperation, not confrontation, just as King Feisal proposed and the Abraham Accords formalized. Jordan may yet become the Palestinian State under his leadership.
With a new U.S. president, new ideas are emerging on how to resolve the Israel-Palestine debacle. One of the most promising comes from Jordanian Opposition Council who favor a new Palestinian state — in Jordan.
By Ted Belman, (First published in slightly different form on Apr 1/17)
The GOP unanimously approved a pro-Israel platform at their convention in July 2016 which stipulated:
“The U.S. seeks to assist in the establishment of comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East, to be negotiated among those living in the region,”
David Friedman and Jason Greenblatt, representing Donald Trump, participated in the drafting and were in complete agreement with the final text.
Gone was any reference to the Palestinian people or to a two-state solution. In addition, the platform included the words “We reject the false notion that Israel is an occupier.” If not an “occupier,” then presumably Israel is a sovereign.
Accordingly, the search is on for an alternate solution. Such a solution could take inspiration from the short-lived Feisal/Weizmann Agreement of 1919. The essence of this agreement was that Palestine as it then was, was to be divided into two states, one for the Arabs and one for the Jews. Chaim Weizmann on behalf of the Jews agreed to help develop the Arab state and King Feisal agreed to welcome Jewish settlement in the Jewish state and favored friendly cooperative relations.
Although the British didn’t breathe life into this agreement, they did separate Trans-Jordan from Palestine in 1922 with the Jordan River being the boundary between them. Trans-Jordan (Jordan) thus got 78% of the lands promised to the Jews. The remaining 22% consisting of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean was to be the Jewish state. This was enshrined in the Palestine Mandate signed by the League of Nations in 1922.
On June 30, 1922, a joint resolution of both Houses of Congress of the United States unanimously endorsed the “Mandate for Palestine,” confirming the irrevocable right of Jews to settle in Palestine—anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
With respect to the Arabs living in Jewish Palestine, the Congressional Record contained the following:
“(2) That if they will not consent to Jewish government and domination, they shall be required to sell their lands at a just valuation and retire into the Arab territory which has been assigned to them by the League of Nations in the general reconstruction of the countries of the east.
“(3) That if they will not consent to Jewish government and domination, under conditions of right and justice, or to sell their lands at a just valuation and to retire into their own countries, they shall be driven from Palestine by force.”
The US was not a member of the League of Nations at this time. In order to be able to protect American interests in Palestine, she entered into the 1924 Anglo-American Convention in which the U.S. bound itself to the terms of the Mandate. This of course meant the recognition of Jewish right to close settlement of Palestine and that all of Palestine was to be the Jewish homeland.
Since then, there were a number of unsuccessful attempts, contrary to the terms of the Mandate, to further divide Jewish Palestine into two states. UN General Assembly Resolution 181, passed in 1947, recommended partition, but was rejected by the Arabs. The Jews on the other hand took advantage of it and declared their independence in 1948. Israel owes its independence to that declaration and not to Resolution 181, which was only a recommendation, precipitating the move.
Nothing has happened of any legal consequence since, to cancel the right of the Jews to settle and be sovereign over all the land to the Jordan River.
To date, Israel has been reluctant to claim sovereignty over these lands as the Arabs living there would then demand citizenship resulting in a binational state. This is unacceptable to most Israelis. They also reject the two-state solution.
So what is the alternative?
Consider for a moment, that if Jordan agrees to grant citizenship to all Palestinians, as their law currently provides, and invites the return of all of them to live and work in Jordan, the conflict would soon be ended. While King Abdullah isn’t about to do so, the Jordan Opposition Coalition (JOC) would. This coalition represents all opposition groups in Jordan that back a secular state. The JOC since its creation six years ago has supported good relations with Israel. It does not include groups that support terrorism. This alliance has agreed to work together in order to form the government of Jordan should King Abdullah abdicate. Although at least 75% of Jordanians are Palestinians, the King has disenfranchised them to a great extent in favor of the ethnic Hashemites and Bedouins.
The JOC has produced a detailed plan, Operation “Jordan is Palestine,” which clearly identifies their goals and the operational steps needed to implement their plan. Copies are available upon request.
All that is necessary for this to come to pass is for the U.S. to instruct the king, who currently spends most of his time outside Jordan, to not return home. Then it would arrange for the Jordanian army, which it controls, to support the next popular Palestinian uprising, and to designate who among them would form the interim government.
The JOC, puts it this way:
“This plan seeks to execute a feasible two-state solution where Jordan is the natural homeland for all Palestinians, and Israel becomes sovereign over all soil west to the River Jordan. This could only happen if the corrupt, terror-supporting and double-speaking Hashemite royal family leaves Jordan. The Palestinians often revolt against the regime but the king’s police force puts them down. The American media ignore this solution to the unrest in Jordan.
“What is needed is for the U.S. to influence the Jordanian army and security agency to stand with the revolution the next time it breaks out. The security agencies and army are already securing the country without any influence from the king who is mostly abroad. Under these conditions, the king would not return. Once that happens an interim government of secular Palestinians who want peace with Israel could be appointed.
“Once the interim government is installed, it will strengthen the economy by stopping theft of government money and ending corruption. It will fully enfranchise the Palestinians. All Palestinians around the world would be welcomed to return to Jordan pursuant the current Jordanian citizenship act, which already recognizes all Palestinians as citizens of Jordan. Many Palestinians will emigrate to Jordan in part because many have family members and friends living in Jordan. Work opportunities as well as a rewarding benefits/welfare system will be made available to them by the new interim government as further inducement. “
Israel, with many international partners, including the U.S., could finance the building of a new Jordanian city of 1 million people. This would greatly stimulate the Jordanian economy and would provide work for the returning Palestinians. The new homes could be made available to the returnees and locals at subsidized prices further incentivizing people to return. The ending of King Abdullah’s discrimination against Palestinians living in Jordan, would also contribute to making Jordan a desired emigration destination.
Michael Ross, a Republican, wrote after the election of Donald Trump, “Trump Must Speak to Mudar Zahran“ because Zahran offers the alternate solution that Pres Trump is looking for.
As part of this solution, all Palestinian refugees enrolled with UN Relief And Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East could be repatriated to Jordan and given citizenship. Thus UNRWA could be wound up and the current UNRWA funding could be transferred to Jordan to assist in the resettlement.
According to Moshe Feiglin, the head of the Zehut Party in Israel, the Oslo Accords have cost Israel over 1 trillion shekels since they were signed. In addition, Israel has borne the cost of three military campaigns in Gaza. Finally, Israel supplies to the Palestinians their energy, water and sewage treatment for free or at greatly subsidized prices.
Last summer, Moshe Feiglin proposed a Solution in which Israel extends Israeli law from the Mediterranean to the Jordan:
“We will give the Arab population in those territories three options: The first is voluntary emigration with the aid of a generous emigration grant. The second is permanent residency, similar to the “Green Card” status in the US – not like what is currently the practice in East Jerusalem. This status will be offered to those Arabs who publicly declare their loyalty to the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish Nation. We will safeguard their human rights and will not do anything like we did to ourselves in Gush Katif. The third option will be reserved for relatively few Arabs, and only in accordance with Israeli interests. Those who tie their fate to the fate of the Jewish Nation, like the Druze, can enter a long-term process of attaining citizenship.”
Recently, Feiglin’s Party, Zehut, published The Diplomatic Plan.
Martin Sherman has published his plan which he calls the “Humanitarian Solution” as opposed to a strictly political solution. He summarized all his writings in support of such a plan and published them here.
With an estimated $300,000 per family grant, both he and Feiglin have estimated that incentivized compensated emigration will cost Israel over $200 billion USD but both argue it is feasible and worth doing.
The repatriation of Palestinians to Jordan, as proposed by JOC, would greatly facilitate the Palestinian emigration and greatly reduce the grants needed to incentivize it. UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority would both be wound up.
1.75 million Palestinians live in Judea and Samaria (West Bank). They should be induced to emigrate to Jordan. The same goes for all Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, Syria and elsewhere.
Considering the subsidies that the West provides to UNRWA, Gaza and the PA, this would be a bargain. Given that JOC has tied its fate to Israel, Israel would be happy to contribute to such a solution as the present conflict costs her hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
Currently the US gives $370 million to UNRWA, $300 million to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and $1.3 Billion to Jordan annually. The EU also gives money to the PA and to Jordan. These monies could be redirected to Jordan to kick start this repatriation. Others, including Israel could contribute. In time, the US and EU subsidies could be phased out.
It really is that simple. There is much more that can be said in support of it.
Prof. Hillel Frisch, a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and Yitzhak Sokoloff, a fellow of the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies at Bar-Ilan University recently wrote Trump and the Jordanian Option.
“The inauguration of an American administration uncommitted to the principle of an independent Palestinian state provides Israel with the opportunity to advocate a long-term strategic vision of building up a prosperous Jordan that could provide an alternative to the model of a two-state solution based on the Palestinian Authority.”
They are wrong to suggest that this can be done with King Abdullah. I believe, as does the JOC, that the king is part of the problem and must be replaced by Palestinians.
Gideon Saar, a touted future Prime Minister of Israel, in his recent article, Goodbye Two-State Solution, wrote:
“A Jordanian-Palestinian federative solution would offer the Palestinians space in addition to their autonomy. We could also consider adopting a joint Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian economic framework. And there are many other ideas that could be constructed as a result of quiet, serious work with the backing of a supportive US administration.”
He is right but the ultimate alternate solution is the one put forward by the JOC.
If anyone wants more information or can help this solution get traction, please write me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
After publishing this article, I heard from a reader who had done considerable work on a plan of his own similar to the Jordan Option described above. I spent many hours with him discussing his research. We also met with a few movers and shakers in Israel.
Whereas I merely suggested the possibility of building a new Jordanian city to house one million people, he went further and researched a location for such a city and researched the cost of housing in Jordan.
According to his research, an 800 sq ft apartment in Jordan costs $40,000. Thus if 1.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, Jerusalem and the camps could be induced to move to Jordan, 300,000 homes (5 people per family) would be needed costing $12 billion; a far cry from the $200 Billion needed to induce emigration according to Feiglin and Sherman. These homes can be given to the Palestinians, free of charge.
Based on the enormous benefit caused by the plan to the Jordanian economy Abdullah can be convinced to invite all Palestinians to return to Jordan just as the JOC plans to do if they get into power. Most people believe that Abdullah would never do it. But due to the poor Jordanian economy he could be forced to do it
Prof Hillel Frisch, BESA, agrees. He recently wrote, Becoming Part of Jordan and Egypt: A Palestinian Economic Imperative which included this summary:
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Reintegrating into the Jordanian state is an economic imperative for the Arab inhabitants of the Palestinian Authority. Only by once again becoming citizens of Jordan will they be able to challenge the economic stone wall imposed by domestic Jordanian economic lobby groups barring West Bank exports. A two-state solution would lead, not to an economy of peace, but to an economy of violence as lobby groups in both Israel and Jordan shut out the Palestinian state’s exports. The Palestinian state would inevitably react by threatening and committing violence to extract the international aid to which the PA has become accustomed.
This reader also makes the novel suggestion that Israel can offer a water incentive to Jordan tied to the number of immigrants it absorbs. This would increase the water supply to Jordan and lower the cost per litre. More on this later.
When presenting this plan to others, many mention that US Congressmen love King Abdulla. That may be so but they are ill informed. Recently Edy Cohen of BESA wrote Sorry but Jordan is not a friend?
Gaza and Egypt
Independent of this proposal or perhaps in tandem with it the same opportunity exists for helping all Gazans to emigrate to Egypt. There are approximately 1.5 million Gazans living in Gaza and the average family size is 6. Thus 250,000 apartments are required.
An 800 sq. ft. apartment in the new cities adjacent to Cairo that would accommodate 15 million people, costs about $16,000 USD: i.e, half the Jordan cost. This adds up to $4 billion USD.
Thus the Gazans would need only 10% of those homes. A 10 year plan would mean that 150,000 Gazans would emigrate there every year. This represents just 0.16% of the population of Egypt.1.5 million Gazans represent only 1.6% of the Egyptian population.
Other incentives might be pensions and welfare payments financed by the international community.
Considering how much it costs the EU and the US to support the current wave of migrants to their shores, this could well be a model for them to consider, i.e., a “Marshall Plan” for the Middle East as a means to get the migrants to stay where they are.
The obvious question is why would al Sisi agree to this, given how much trouble he is now having with Hamas that rules Gaza and is perceived as a threat to Egypt along with ISIS.
The obvious answer is that al Sisi needs help to meet its financial obligations and its security threats emanating from the Sinai and from Libya. The international community could provide that help.
Given that Saudi Arabia and other gulf states have started an initiative at Pres Trump’s urging, to stop the flow of funds to terrorists. They have severed relations with Qatar one of the biggest funders of terror demanding that it cease and desist. Specifically, they have demanded that Qatar stop funding Hamas.
Thus if Hamas is starved for money they will be less of a threat to Egypt too.
The reader above mentioned, is currently preparing a report in support of his Plan. It is 25 pages long and when completed in a few weeks will approach 35 pages. This Plan will make the case for why this is in the best interest of the US too.