Dutch MP Geert Wilders gave a masterful speech in Tel Aviv today on the occasion of this fifth evening of Hanukkah. Hannukah, meaning “dedication” in Hebrew is a holiday commemorating the ancient Jewish resistance and salvation of its culture and religion under the leadership of the founder of the Hasmonean dynasty, a rural priest from Modiin, Mattisyahu and his five warrior sons, the legendary Maccabees.
The Maccabees conducted a relentless guerrila war against the Helenist Syrian Greeks under the Seleucid Greek King Antiochus, eventually rededicating the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Wilders was featured speaker at a conference convened by M.K. Arieh Eldad, of the National Union party in israel’s Knesset. Wilders speech was a coda to Eldad’s thesis that some in Israel, many in the EU and the Obama Administration view as an extreme solution to the Arab -Israeli impasse of over six decades regarding the Palestinians. The thesis that Wilders propounds as the solution, quoting the late King Hussein of Jordan, is “Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan”.
Wilders believes that only voluntary transfer of Palestinians to Jordan from Samaria and Judea, the ancient homeland of the Jewish people, will break the 60 year impasse over the Palestinian Refugee Problem and the unending failure of the West and America to achieve a two state solution with the divided Fatah leadership in the rump canton of the West Bank and the annihilationist Hamas leadership in Gaza.
To the skeptics, I say:
What is the alternative? Leaving the present situation as it is?
No, my friends, the world must recognize that there has been an independent Palestinian state since 1946, and it is the Kingdom of Jordan.
Allowing all Palestinians to voluntarily settle in Jordan is a better way towards peace than the current so-called two-states-approach (in reality a three-states-approach) propagated by the United Nations, the U.S. administration, and governing elites all over the world. We only want a democratic non-violent solution for the Palestinian problem. This requires that the Palestinian people should be given the right to voluntarily settle in Jordan and freely elect their own government in Amman. If the present Hashemite King is still as popular as today, he can remain in power. That is for the people of Palestine to decide in real democratic elections.
My friends, let us adopt a totally new approach. Let us acknowledge that Jordan is Palestine.
And to the Western world I say:
Let us stand with Israel because the Jews have no other state, while the Palestinians already have Jordan.
Let us stand with Israel because the history of our civilization began here, in this land, the homeland of the Jews.
Let us stand with Israel because the Jewish state needs defendable borders to secure its own survival.
Let us stand with Israel because it is the frontline in the battle for the survival of the West.
Wilders notes the historical precedent for this given the division of the original Jewish homeland , mandated by the League of Nations at the San Remo Conference in 1920, to establish the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan by Sir Winston Churchill in 1922, as a gift to Hussein’s grandfather, King Abdullah. Abdullah who originally accepted the Jewish State following the Balfour Declaration only to join his Arab Legion with four Arab Armies to try and extinguish the nascent Jewish state by seizing Judea, Samaria and the Old city of Jerusalem during the 1949-1949 War for Independence. Abdullah was assassinated by a Palestinian extremist in 1951 during a visit to the Al Aqsa Mosque with his grandson, Hussein.
Abdullah was murdered because of alleged secret negotiations with the late Golda Mier about a possible peace treaty that was finally realized between Jordan and Israel in 1994.
In our NER interview with MK. Eldad in Novembr 2008, he laid out the elements of the “voluntary transfer” plan:
Humanitarian resettlement of Arab refugees is neither original to me nor is it new. Arab refugees are not under the responsibility of the United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees, but instead are controlled by a special agency designated only for Palestinians. – The UN Refugee Works Relief Administration or UNWRA. 50-70 million refugees have been resettled since the end of World War II. More than four million Palestinians are the only ones still in these UNWRA refugee camps. Because the UNWRA camps are virtually administered by Palestinians, these UNWRA refugees, now in the third generation in 60 years, have been taught incitement to hate against Israel and Jews, all thanks to funding of nearly a half billion dollar annually donated by tax payers in the West. How bad are these UNWRA Camps? An average refugee family in the camp at Balata, near Nablus, has an annual income of $700 and lives in appalling conditions. I am convinced that these people must be resettled, preferably in Jordan. Jordan is effectively, Palestine. 70% of the Jordanian population are Palestinians. This is the de facto fulfillment of “the two state solution.” If a large scale international program was created to bring water, energy, housing and jobs to a designated area in Jordan a willing transfer could happen. Within a few years we would be able to resettle 2-3 million refugees in Jordan.
Wilders pragmatically recognizes the daunting prospects this solution to the Gordian knot of the Israeli-Palestinian problem:
In 1988, as the first Intifada raged, Jordan officially renounced any claim of sovereignty to the so-called West Bank. In recent years, the Jordanian authorities have stripped thousands of Palestinians of their Jordanian citizenship. They do so for two reasons.
First, because the alien Hashemite rulers fear that the Palestinians might one day take over their own country.
And second, because stripping Palestinians of their Jordanian citizenship supports the falsehood that Jordan is not a part of Palestine. And that, consequently, the Palestinians must attack Israel if they want a place of their own.
By arbitrarily reducing thousands of their citizens to statelessness, the Jordanian authorities want to force the Palestinians to turn their aspirations towards the establishment of another Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria. This decision is a great injustice committed by the Hashemite rulers of Jordan – this foreign clan which the British installed.
I am not naïve. I am not blind to the possibility that if Jordan were to be ruled by the Palestinians, this might lead to political radicalization in Jordan. However, a continuation of the present situation will most certainly lead to radicalization.
In Benny Morris’s history of the Israeli War for Independence, 1948: A History of the First Arab Israeli War, he noted the Ben Gurion cabinet debate that an opportunity was lost in the waning days of the existential conflict to reclaim Judea and Samaria from Abdullah ‘s Legionnaires and their British commander, John Glubb Pasha. That possible operation might have averted the establishment of a rump Palestinian state, but for fear of antagonizing the British and despite evidence that the Jordanian force had for all intents and purposes, “quit the conflict”. Morris noted on pp. 350-351 of 1948 the quandary that faced Ben Gurion and his cabinet:
David Ben Gurion was still powerfully drawn to Judea and Samaria by historic-ideological and strategic considerations but international diplomatic considerations dictated caution and restraint. Besides, the Jordanians had made it abundantly clear that they were out of the fight, and the Israelis still feared British military intervention should hostilities with Jordan be renewed. Zvi Ayalon, the central front OC, assured ben Gurion that it would take only “5 days” to conquer the West Bank or large parts of it. But Israel’s representatives at the General assembly meeting in Paris, Abba Eban and Rueven Shiloah weighed in firmly against it.
During the cabinet debate in December, 1948 about the scope of operations in the final phase of the conflict, Operation Horev, Peretz Bernstein Minister of trade and Industry, dithered about support for the offensive in the South that ultimately sealed the fate of the surrounded Egyptian Army in the Fallujah gap as to whether peace with Egypt was achievable. Morris notes on p. 355 what Bernstein articulated about the matter of the West Bank:
As to the West Bank, merely nibbling at its fringes would not improve Israel’s strategic situation, he argued. But he fell short of recommending the complete conquest of the West Bank. He adamantly opposed the establishment of a Palestinian Arab West Bank state.
Thus, the Ben Gurion cabinet had to opt for pragmatic realities given the heavy burden of mobilization and the perceptions that the British would intervene on behalf of Jordan in any Israeli operation to take back the West Bank and the old City of Jerusalem. It was left to the stunning victory 19 years later in the June 1967 Six Days of War to reclaim the disputed territories of Samaria, Judea and unify Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol. The daunting and costly Yom Kippur War of 1973 resulted in another surrounded Egyptian Army, this time, across the Suez Canal less than 91 miles from Cairo. That costly effort by Israel ,with support from President Nixon, lead to the cold peace and abandonment of the captured Sinai territory with the Treaty of 1992 with Mubarak’s Egypt . That treaty followed the assassination of Mubarak’s predecessor, strongman Anwar Sada t by Muslim extremists of Egyptian Islamic Jihad in 1981.
Given the over arching concerns about the Iranian annihilationist threat to Israel’s existence, now may not be the time to seriously consider what both Israeli M.K. Eldad and Dutch MP Wilders propose the “voluntary transfer of West Bank Arab residents” to Jordan. Nonetheless with the peace process flagging and in tatters coupled with a weak US President Obama, “voluntary transfer” may be a solution that could become an eventual reality and solution to the Arab-Israel impasse.