A ‘Jordanian option’ or another Black September?

Jordan’s King Abdullah will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday in Ramallah. IsraelInsider writes:

There are unconfirmed reports that Abdullah II, head of the Hashemite Kingdom, is exploring a new confederation linking Jordan and the Palestinian Authority as a run up to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state…

The driving force for the talks from the Jordanian perspective is deep concern about instability in the Hashemite Kingdom as the Palestinian Authority descends into chaos and refugees are expected to flood into Jordan following the start of the anticipated US troop withdrawal from Iraq in the late summer. Jordan evidently believes that a confederate relationship with the PA will lure Israel into a less adversarial position with respect to the Hamas-led Palestinian government, and may even lead to its recognition and lifting of economic sanctions against it.

The reports originated with Debka, a source of uncertain reliability and have been denied by PA and Jordanian officials. Nevertheless, there are good reasons for Abbas to seek a closer relationship with Abdullah. If Israel were to leave tomorrow, either unilaterally or as a result of international pressure (something Abbas believes will happen), an entirely independent territory would likely degenerate into a Gaza-like shambles.

And Abdullah certainly does not want either a radical Islamic state governed by Hamas or another lawless Gaza on his western border, either one of which could result in Black September-like problems (in 1970, King Hussein fought a mini-war against Yasser Arafat’s guerrillas who tried to overthrow his monarchy).

It’s been suggested that the Israeli government has been apprised of these plans, and views them with approval. We can see the appeal of this for Israel, which might imagine a Palestinian-Jordanian entity in which radical elements are suppressed. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni suggested today that Israel will withdraw from the West Bank in return for a peace agreement. If there will ever be two-state solution, a Palestinian state will have to have strong ties with Jordan in order to be even barely economically viable and reasonably secure. Livni and Olmert may see the Jordanian connection as a factor that could make such an agreement possible.

Time to wake up. This is the Middle East (the old one, not Shimon Peres’ new one).

There are some really big obstacles here. To mention a few, we have Hamas whose first priority is always the destruction of Israel, with state-building a distant second (Hamas’ refusal to even pretend to recognize Israel in return for international aid is proof of this). Then we have Syria and Iran, which find Israeli-Palestinian tensions useful, Saudi Arabia which does not wish to strengthen political rival Jordan (it’s been suggested that the Hashemites and not the Saudis should be the guardians of Mecca), and Egypt, which is afraid that Jordanian influence over a Palestinian state would extend to the Gaza strip.

Does Abbas speak for the Palestinians? If there is an agreement, could the Hashemites control Hamas and the rest of the terrorist factions? Or would the result be a takeover of Jordan, leaving the Jordanian army and air force commanded by Hamas?

It seems clear to me that there is one primary factor that will determine whether Israel can or should try to reach a two-state solution with the Palestinians, regardless of whom they are allied with, and that is the Palestinian leadership. Today this is Hamas, which is fighting a low-intensity war from Gaza while preparing for a high-intensity one. Terrorism from the West Bank is barely contained by almost continuous IDF incursions, checkpoints, and the security fence.

It is in the hands of the Palestinians to stop the fighting, receive huge amounts of international aid, and within a short time be given large portions of the West Bank. All they have to do is officially recognize the legitimacy of the state of Israel, and stop terrorism and incitement. It’s that simple.

But they have categorically refused to take this road. No agreement with Jordanian King Abdullah (or anyone else) can by itself change this. So there is no reason for Israel to allow herself to be pushed into a withdrawal as a result of this development.

Unfortunately, the Arab world, including the Palestinian authority, has decided that Israel can be defeated by a combination of terrorism, war, and threats of terrorism and war. This was perhaps not so in 1990, but the peace window has been closing since then, finally slamming shut in Lebanon last summer.

There is no good response to aggression except to defeat the aggressor, and this is the only option Israel has today. Wishful dreaming won’t help.

Update [13 May 1129 PDT]: The meeting has been postponed, supposedly due to bad weather (the King was traveling by helicopter). It’s not clear if this is indeed the reason, of if there were security or political problems that caused the postponement.

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