Tuesday, April 17, 2012

If Jordan Falls

If Jordan Falls

 By Joseph Puder 
The “Arab Spring” revolutions seem to have bypassed the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan – at least for the time being. But for King Abdullah II of Jordan the long-term survival of his throne and that of the Hashemite monarchy is becoming more questionable.  Jordan, a British creation, has never been an organic state but rather, is a concoction of Bedouin tribes and Palestinians, who by some estimates, comprise 70% of the population.  It is therefore logical to assume that it may be just a matter of time before Jordan becomes a Palestinian State.

At this juncture in world history, it is imperative that the U.S. and its Western allies begin to examine the possibility of a Palestinian State with its capital being Amman. “Jordan is Palestine,” is not merely a slogan but rather the only realistic solution to the Arab (Palestinian)-Israeli conflict.  Unlike the West Bank and Gaza, which are simply too small to contain a Palestinian population reputed to be nearly 4.3 million. Jordan’s 89,342 square kilometers, more than four times the size of Israel’s 20,770 square kilometers, would afford the Palestinians more than sufficient space and, some natural resources.

The Jordan River is and should be the natural border between the Palestinians and Israel – one that would provide security for Israel and allow the Palestinians to militarize.  A militarized Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza, which is inevitable, would constitute a serious threat to Israel. Moreover, a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza would naturally attract irredentist elements amongst the Arabs in Israel’s Galilee that would further complicate the prospects of peace and security for Israel.

The two-state solution in the territory west of the Jordan River is a prescription for perpetual conflict between Arab-Palestinians and Jews.  The close proximity of the Samaritan hills – which the Palestinians will claim – to Israel’s population centers and the Ben-Gurion International Airport, poses an existential threat to the Jewish State. Rather than have two people fighting over one small parcel of land, Arab-Palestinians and Jews would be able to share the historic land mass of Palestine the way it was before the British cut off its eastern portion in 1922 – east of the Jordan River – to establish the Emirate of Trans-Jordan, later to be known as the Hashemite Kingdom.  Poetic justice and fairness would place Eastern Palestine, now called Jordan, in Palestinian hands, and Israel would retain Western Palestine.  Arab residents of the Palestinian cities in the West Bank and Gaza will be part of the Palestinian State, and the Jordan River will separate the two states.

Dr. Larbi Sadiki, a senior lecturer on Middle East Politics at the University of Exeter wrote in Al-Jazeera (February 25, 2012) “What is most striking about Jordan’s durable pro-reformrioting, however, is its polyphony.  Amid such noise, disunited tribes, Islamists, students, retired army officers, and former establishment figures are united in their cry for greater freedom and reform of the decaying monarchy.  Jordan’s ‘Arab Spring’ remains a long way away, but the protest current that has taken root refuses to fade away until the king and queen do more than sell hope, image, and rhetoric.”

The defining element of dissent in Jordan is the growing dissatisfaction by the Bedouin tribes — long the bedrock of support of the royal regime, who are now in support of reform.  The decentralized nature of the anti-government protest makes dissatisfaction difficult to contain; the esteem of the royal couple once considered as sacrosanct as that of the late King Hussein’s, is diminishing.  There are republican sentiments expressed openly, and former establishment figures have taken an anti-establishment posture, demanding liberalization and an end to corruption.

The restive Palestinians in Jordan, cognizant of the Arab Spring and its impact in Egypt, Tunisia, and possibly Syria, where dictatorial and corrupt rulers have been overthrown by the people, are seeking a more open and fair society, and a democracy.  The Palestinians, more so than the Bedouin tribesmen, are alienated from King Abdullah, whose mother was British.  They have little loyalty towards the monarchy, especially for their Westernized king.

In a move that angered Palestinian-Jordanian further, the Jordanian government in recent years has stripped thousands of Palestinians of their Jordanian citizenship in an apparent response to calls to establish a Palestinian state in Jordan. This week, the Jordanian officials revoked the citizenship of PLO officials.

Mudar Zahran, a Palestinian-Jordanian writer who resides in Britain wrote in LiveLeak (March 3, 2012):
Abdullah should realize that Jordan’s Palestinians are fed up with him and his policies and that all of his anti-Israel talk will not deter them from joining the Arab Spring. Abdullah must know that the Palestinian majority in Jordan is more concerned with the daily bread they cannot afford and the dignity they no longer have because of a king who treats them as sub-human…Abdullah and other Arab rulers must realize that bashing Israel will not get them an Arab-Spring exemption.
On January 17, 2012, a group of Jordanian and Palestinian-Jordanians (members of an organization they formed called Jordanian Overseas National Assembly, aka “JONA”) demonstrated outside the White House in Washington DC.  As reported by Hateen, a Jordanian news agency, they have demanded the end of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic, and wrote a manifesto that included such phrases as “we believe in Jordan, not the Hashemite family,” explaining that the Hashemites derived their legitimacy in Jordan primarily from being a Hijazi (Saudi Arabian) family related to the Prophet.  Members of JONA claim that Jordanians, on the other hand, are more organic to the land of Jordan.  Hateen,called the JONA declaration of principles the most dangerous political statement yet faced by the Hashemite Kingdom.  Jordanian MP, Dr. Ahmed Oweidi Al-Abbadi, a controversial figure with strong tribal ties, is sympathetic to JONA’s positions.  He has been recorded expressing his beliefs that King Abdullah II is “occupying the country.”

Palestinian-Jordanians abroad are coming to the realization that the current Palestinian leadership is leading the people towards a dead-end.  The endless postponement of elections, the Fatah-Hamas rivalry, and the possible dismantlement of the Palestinian Authority, makes the idea of “Jordan is Palestine” both attractive and perhaps more realistic than ever.  Without the royal family, Jordan would be a predominantly Palestinian state.  And for the people associated with JONA, and the likes of Dr. Ahmed Oweidi Al-Abbadi, Jordan should be a republic not a monarchy.

In a column that appeared in Ha’aretz, an Israeli daily newspaper, on April 12, 2012, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated, “Discussion about Jordan as a Palestinian State is against Israeli interests and against reality.”  However, should President Assad of Syria fall, King Abdullah II of Jordan may very well be next.  And, given such a scenario, it would be an historic folly for Israel and the international community not to recognize that the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rests on Jordan becoming the Palestinian State.