Trump and the Jordanian Option

Instead of the fixation on an independent Palestinian state, the new administration should look east to the Hashemite Kingdom as a stabilizing influence on Palestinian politics.

By Hillel Frish and  Yitzhak Sokoloff, JPOST

Jordan King Abdullah

IN HIS first meeting with President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to stake out common ground on the issues that have most troubled American-Israeli relations during the last eight years, namely Iran, and Israel’s settlement policy in Judea and Samaria. Particularly in light of the recent Security Council Resolution 2334 labelling Israel’s settlement activity illegal, he will need to seek American support for renewed Israeli building in Jerusalem and the blocs, and a renewal of the guarantees of the “Bush letter.”

Far beyond that, the inauguration of a new American administration also presents the opportunity for Israel to take the lead in advocating a far more ambitious initiative – a major investment in the economic prosperity and political stability of the Kingdom of Jordan.

The gravitational force of a prosperous Jordan would expand the functional links that have always existed between the cities of the West Bank and Amman. It would encourage Palestinians in the West Bank to look to a link with Jordan as the best guarantee of their political and economic future.

Because of this, Jordan has the potential (once again) to become a major stabilizing influence on Palestinian politics, which would serve the interests of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian people itself.

The reemergence of a Jordanian role in the disposition of the West Bank is much preferable to the present international fixation on the concept of an independent, contiguous Palestinian state whose border is based on the 1967 line. Such a Palestinian state is no less of a long-term strategic threat today than it was before the advent of Oslo. So too is Palestinian irredentism a threat to Jordan’s security. A Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria is likely to succumb to a Hamas takeover, to Iranian influence, and become a theocratic and autocratic state along the lines Hamas presently rules in Gaza. Moreover, it is unobtainable.

Despite Israel’s acceptance of the two state concept and its agreement to unprecedented territorial dispositions, Israeli concessions have not met the minimal Palestinian demands required for a peace agreement, nor are they ever likely to do so if the Palestinian Authority is seen as the only possible partner in the peace process.

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.

Such a vision will not only attenuate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but, equally importantly, it will bolster a Jordan whose importance to regional stability has never been so crucial.

Even more critical is Jordan’s role in containing growing Iranian influence, especially after Iran, along with its terrorist arm Hezbollah, succeeded in placing its candidate in Lebanon’s presidential palace making Beirut the fourth capital Iran basically controls in the Arab world. The recent rout of the rebels from eastern Aleppo and the complete takeover of the city by Syrian, Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed forces have major implications on the Sunni- Shi’ite balance of power.

Actually, the two pivotal roles Jordan plays in the fight against ISIS and against the Iranian- Syrian axis are interrelated. The Jordanian population is Sunni, extremely fearful of the growing Shi’ite menace to the point that if the Jordanian state fails to appear sufficiently strong in stemming the tide, they might turn to ISIS to do so, as indeed many of the Sunni tribes in Iraq did in the past.

Jordan has traditionally been a pro-Western state ruling through cooption and consensus.

Though Jordan is not quite a Jeffersonian democracy, it is far closer to that ideal than any other Arab state in the region. Critics of such a plan will quickly point out that a role is being thrust on the key player, Jordan, that it does not want in the first place. This is certainly the case rhetorically.

Jordan has been committed to a twostate solution since the Oslo Accords. Yet, there are two pieces of evidence that the Hashemite Kingdom is flexible and open to political opportunities. The first is that the Hashemite Kingdom, throughout the past twenty-five years since its announcement of the severance of ties with the West Bank, has refrained from amending the 1952 constitution, which enshrines a Kingdom that unites the two banks of the Jordan River – the East and West Banks.

The second is the trial balloons the Kingdom releases from time to time regarding the feasibility of renewing the Jordanian option. The last was released in May this year, when former Jordanian prime minister Abd al-Salam Majali met 100 notables in Nablus in a meeting arranged by Ghassan al-Shak’a, a Nablus-based member of the Executive Committee of the PLO. Simultaneously, in the Hebron area Jordanian MP Muhammad Al-Dawaimeh launched the “One Million Hebronites” initiative to promote a confederation, and the Hebron delegation was to meet with King Abdallah to discuss this issue. Though it should be noted that al-Shak’a stressed that such a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation could only come into being after a Palestinian state is created.

Four actors can play a critical role in making Jordan prosperous, and all four have a vested interest in making it happen.

The Saudis and the Gulf states should provide the finance. The United States should prod them to do so certainly for their own good but also to reciprocate for the American security umbrella under which they have been living since Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait. President-elect Trump, throughout his campaign, has stressed that he wants US allies to pay for the security umbrella the US provides. This is one way the Gulf states and Saudi Arabia can reciprocate.

Channeling money to the Palestinians through Jordan would also improve transparency and assure that less money is channeled to incitement and terrorism. It will be important to gradually wean away international aid from the PA to Jordan to enable the latter to extend its influence in the West Bank. Israeli-Jordanian security cooperation, historically extensive, can also play a vital role in securing the cooperation of the security forces presently operating under the Palestinian Authority.

Recent trends bolster the prospects of such a project. Locally, the possible breakup of the PA into north and south as a result of the struggle over Abbas’s succession could revitalize the links between Nablus and Amman, and Hebron and Amman. The PA’s inhabitants by that time will pine for the stability Jordanian influence can offer. Regionally, Jordan has never been a more important strategic asset for Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, well-worth investing in. It defends what remains of these states’ northern flank against Syrian-Iranian encroachment, and helps balance the threat Shi’ite Iraq poses to Saudi Arabia’s eastern border crucially near to its major oil fields. Internationally, the current leadership of the European Union, the champion of the two-state solution (almost to the point of being an obsession) has been considerably weakened by events such as the takeover in Crimea and Brexit. With the vast increase in Islamic terrorism on its home ground, the European Union might be inclined to join a venture that will be part of the front against terrorism rather than creating a state that might well promote it.

Above all, a new president, new to politics, beholden to no political establishment and a seasoned businessman with a history of making opportunities come true is moving into the White House. The vision of making Jordan prosperous and the gains of such a venture to the interests of the United States and its allies might well fire his imagination.

Prof. Hillel Frisch is senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. Yitzhak Sokoloff is a fellow of the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies at Bar-Ilan University.

January 28, 2017 | 65 Comments » | 59 views

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15 Comments / 65 Comments

  1. Edgar G. Said:

    That’s the meaning of “repatriation”,and I’m sure you already knew.

    Re: mean again, partition means’ When a man becomes a Father repatriation means : when a man has more then one child. And you thought us Texas don’t know no nothin.

  2. @ honeybee:

    I doubt this because the dat ribber is full of schistosome parasites causing Bilharzia. It was the main reason that the vast majority of early Egyptians died so young, many barely reaching their 30s. Examined mummies confirm this. Ramesses 2 was an anomaly.

  3. @ Edgar G.:
    Yes, I see. If you google bilharzia egypt, a lot comes up.

    “In 1990, a study conducted in nine governorates of Egypt confirmed the change in the pattern of schistosomiasis transmission in the Delta.”

    The ancient Egyptians were very ignorant. If they’d only flown on a different airline, they woulda been ok. The Spanish learned. that’s why they favor ground travel. Everybody these days knows that in Spain, it mainly rains in the plane.

    ‘Specially the F35.

  4. @ Sebastien Zorn:

    Pretty good I must say. between you and Honeybee, Laurel and Hardy become back numbers…………..Not to forget Gallagher and Sheen and Olsen and Johnson et all. El Brendel would be like a bosom companion … i am giving you leading lines , so take advantage of them……

  5. Trump Says He ‘Always Liked Concept’ of Moving Embassy to Jerusalem; ‘Very Big Decision’ Coming Soon

    You know it’s a very big decision, because every president for the last number of presidents…they’ve come in and they were going to do it and then all of a sudden they decide they don’t want to get involved. It’s a big, big decision, but we’re studying the issue right now.”

    the only reason they dont want to get involved is due to the looney tune Israelis and their looney tune gov.’s
    When they look at it they find that half the jews dont want it moved… so why get involved

    We are doing very detailed studies on that, and we’ll come out very soon. I hate to do that because that’s not usually me — studies — usually I do what’s right. But this has two sides to it; it’s not easy, and I will make a decision over the not-too-distant future.”

    the other side, is BB’s side reason for why he should not move the embassy and not allow Israeli settlement. He is waiting for BB to come to explain why BB does not really want the status quo to change…. like moving embassy and especially declaring that jewish settlement in YS is legal and legitimate every where.
    Trump doesnt care about the pals… all that was there before… what changed his mind is BB.
    Personally I dont care where other nations place their symbols, I only care about muslim anti semitic abuse in Israel and Jews settling in all the vacant lands of YS.
    Perhaps BB will tell trump that it will be difficult to move the GOI bldgs to Jerusalem… who knows what story he will give but it is likely that whatever story comes out Trumps mouth is one that originated with BB

  6. @ Edgar G.:
    I wish I could find it but I remember an Abbott and Costello skit from their late ’40s TV show that serves as a neat analogy for Oslo and the ruse whereby the PLO pretended to revoke the clause calling for Israel’s destruction without really doing it.*

    Abbott bets Costello that he can’t hit him even if they are standing on facing edges of a handkerchief on the floor. After Costello accepts the bet, Abbott places the handkerchief on the bar underneath the door and closes the door so they are on either side of it. They are standing on the two edges of the handkerchief but the door is in the way. Abbott wins. Abbott lets Costello make the same bet (that’s part of their innovative genius, Abbott always gives Costello the same chance, but it doesn’t do him any good.). When they are standing on the two edges of the handkerchief with the door between them, this time, Abbott opens the top half of the door — which is on a separate, invisible hinge — and hits Costello.


    Which makes Abbas’ threat to revoke recognition an empty one, in any case.]

  7. bernard ross Said:

    Perhaps BB will tell trump that it will be difficult to move the GOI bldgs to Jerusalem… who knows what story he will give but it is likely that whatever story comes out Trumps mouth is one that originated with BB

    All Government head offices are already in Jerusalem except the military Hdgs. Those not safe to be in Jerusalem. Now they are moving all from TYel Aviv to Negev.

  8. @ yamit82:
    Where they gonna move when they decide they don’t wanna “offend” the Bedouins in the Negev? Will they build an island off shore? Do they seriously think the Arabs won’t claim that, too? Do they seriously think that the “International Community” gives a hang about fact, or law, or right and wrong? The Diaspora mentality of humoring the Goyim is outdated. Time to change. These “Zionists” are thinking like Ghetto Jews.

  9. @ yamit82:
    Or maybe he will tell him to wait until the world is distracted by something else. Prime Minister Netanyahu moves sideways like a crab. Have you noticed? Now, he is supporting the Normalization bill. Maybe because of Bennett’s threat. Maybe not. Is it Bennett’s first threat? Obama’s waiver expires in six months unless renewed by the President. All President Trump has to do to cancel it is, well, nothing.

  10. Bibi made very clear he would like the USA Embassy in Jerusalem. So did the Mayor Barkat.

    Israel would like many foreign Embassies in Jerusalem the capital city.

    If USA decides not to move the Embassy that is their decision or in this case Trumps final decision. Clearly he is getting nervous about doing it. Hopefully he will overcome this nervousness.

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