…but it can’t.
By Vic Rosenthal
We are fast approaching the point at which the Palestinian question will get an imposed solution. Israel is not strong enough or unified enough to be the imposer; it will be the United States and other ‘interested parties’ such as Russia and the EU which are not great friends of Israel. We can easily imagine the outlines of such a solution: a Hamas state in Gaza and much of the West Bank, militarized, stuffed with rockets, busily tunneling.
Such a state would not be economically viable on its own, due to its small usable area and the Palestinian penchant for funneling resources into weaponry rather than development. And weapons would be gleefully provided by Iran and Syria. It would represent a threat not only to Israel, but also to its neighbor to the East, Jordan.
This state would exist only for a short time, as a temporary expedient until Hamas either achieves its goal of reversing the nakba, or the whole region goes up in nuclear smoke.
The status quo is also not acceptable, since it is not static – it is a gradual realization of the Palestinian state, a ratcheting process of Arab and outside pressure and Israeli surrender. The result would be the same as the imposed solution, bringing about the ultimate result more slowly, albeit no less surely.
There is another solution. Unfortunately, it is a solution that would in truth create a practical Palestinian state in which the nationalist and economic aspirations of the Palestinian Arabs could be realized, in which the refugees could find a home, and peace could finally reign – which is exactly what the Palestinian leadership does not want to see. And this is why it can’t come to pass.
The state of Jordan was created in 1921 when the British lopped of a chunk of ‘Palestine’ – about 80% of the area – and gave it to the Hashemite King Abdullah, who had just gotten kicked out of the Hejaz (Mecca and Medina) by the house of Saud. Note that this was the first ‘partitioning’ of historical Palestine. Jordan today has a Palestinian majority, and if it were to be a democratic state, it would be a Palestinian state. In 1970, Yasser Arafat, with the help of Syria, actually tried to overthrow the king and establish a PLO state in place of the Hashemite kingdom (although of course this state would not have been democratic).
So various people have suggested that this is what should happen – that Jordan should become the Palestinian state. It’s large enough and the Western development aid that would surely flow its way could ultimately help its inhabitants create a powerful economy. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as that. Allowing Hamas, for example, to establish an Islamic state in Jordan would be to greatly strengthen Israel’s most implacable enemy, and place it next door – in a state with a real army and air force.
The Hashemite state has also, since 1967, been the most ‘enlightened’ of Israel’s neighbors, preferring peace to confrontation. Jordan is also the only Arab state that allows Palestinian refugees to hold citizenship. Although a monarchy, Jordan is not particularly oppressive to those of its citizens who are not trying to subvert it. It would be a pity to trade this for the Taliban-like state that Hamas would establish.
But in any event, Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim culture, politics, and ideology would not permit either a democratic state or a non-confrontational one. Even though a truly democratic Jordan-Palestine could be an economic success story, Hamas, Fatah, or any imaginable Palestinian leadership are far more committed to removing Israel than to peace and plenty. Nor is it easy to imagine them sharing power with the Hashemites. And of course other Arab and Muslim powers in the region have demonstrated time and again that they will always choose hurting Jews over helping Palestinians.