January 22, 2012
The Path to Peace for Palestinians and the HashemitesBy Alan Bergreen
The only viable peace settlement between the Palestinians and Israelis which satisfies the legitimate national aspirations of both parties within geopolitically stable and rational boundaries requires inclusion of the territories, institutions, and resources of former eastern Palestine (presently Jordan) as part of the mix.
That added venue would greatly enhance prospects for a Palestinian state in a territory adequate to its needs, and it would be minimally threatening, strategically and demographically, to Israel. It would also provide the added advantage and example of an overwhelmingly Palestinian polity, already operating with vastly greater success than the dysfunctional, warring camps west of the Jordan River.
Moreover, such an arrangement would provide a requirement critical to Israel's future security: namely, an outlet for Palestinian demographic pressures west of the Jordan River, while potentially relieving Israel of administrative responsibilities for the Arabs remaining there. This would result either from the migration of Palestinians eastward, attracted by the prospects of a newborn Palestinian state, or by arrangement with the government of future Jordan/Palestine to provide citizenship and local administration to Arab communities remaining in Judea and Samaria.
But what is crucial from the standpoint of selling this idea to the Jordanians is the fact that this approach also confers critically needed long-term legitimacy on the Hashemite regime, itself an alien oligarchy which has ruled the area since British authorities acquiesced in what was effectively the invasion of the territory in late 1920 by the Bedouin forces of Abdullah I.
Consideration of these benefits and their implications have been consistently overlooked or blithely dismissed by commentators on the region and, mysteriously, omitted from serious public policy discussions. It is imperative for Israel's sake, and for that of the Palestinians as well, that they now be explored.
Truth be told, the Hashemites' days may be numbered in any event. Historically, they are clearly interlopers in the region and heirs to the arbitrary legacies of British imperialism. Moreover, they rule a nation composed overwhelmingly of ethnic "Palestinians," by whatever definition that may be assessed. In many instances they are blood relations of the residents of the territories west of the Jordan, who, in their own right, were Jordanian citizens prior to 1967.
And if the "shell game" of Jordanian/Palestinian national identities were any more confused, it might be noted that in 1948, the Second Arab-Palestinian conference proclaimed then-Transjordanian monarch Abdullah I "King of Palestine" and called for the unification of the territories west of the Jordan River, with the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan to the east.
For that matter, the present Jordanian queen, Rania Al Abdullah (née Al Yassin), was born to Palestinian parents formerly from Tulkarm, large portions of which were captured by Israel in the War of Independence and incorporated into the city of Netanya and a number of Arab villages today in Israel proper. Hence, the question "Where's Palestine?" is not a frivolous one, and the relationship between Palestinians and Jordanians is not a foreign one. In fact, said relationship can be summed up thus:
"A Jordanian is a Palestinian who recognizes the legitimacy of Hashemite rule. A Palestinian is a Jordanian who does not."
It is only by virtue of their preferential status vis-à-vis the British and then the Americans (with the acquiescence of the Israelis) that this profoundly illegitimate regime has remained in power all these years. And it is only by virtue of the obsessive focus of Arab hatred toward Israel (which the Hashemites, in part, have amply exploited, when it served their purposes) that the questionable and precarious status of the regime has been obscured.
The question is, how long can this ruse be sustained?
I would submit that the answer is "not long." In fact, with the destabilizing effects of the current "Arab Spring" sweeping the region, very possibly not long at all. All three of the parties above had an interest until now in preserving the fiction of Hashemite legitimacy, but this coalition of interests may be coming to an end -- especially if undue pressure is applied on Israel to make existentially threatening concessions in future peace negotiations, or if the "Arab Spring" gets further out of hand.
But there is a way for the Hashemites to secure their long-range prospects and promote the well-being of Palestinians, Israelis, and world peace in the bargain. And it is imperative that the logic of this argument be impressed upon them. In sum, the Hashemites must "get out in front of the curve" of Palestinian nationalism and become, in effect, its promoter, mentor, and disciplinarian, in the tradition of the first King Abdullah.
The scenario goes something like this. At an opportune juncture -- when Palestinian prospects look bleak -- the Hashemites step up to the plate and declare themselves the historic "protectors" of the Palestinian People, no longer willing to see them languish in the purgatory to which history (and certain "enemies" of the Arab peoples) have consigned them.
They could then, of their own accord -- as if it were their idea -- point to the historic fact that Jordan, too, is "Palestine," and extol the great achievements Jordan's "Palestinians" have made under the wise and benevolent tutelage of the true heirs of Mohammed (with the obvious implication of how badly Palestinian affairs have prospered under other management). They might even couch their appeal in martial terms, calling upon the "sons of Palestine from all its regions and abroad to join a mighty nation in the making," etc., etc.
They would then proceed, with the backing of the Americans, British, Europeans, and Israelis, to integrate the Palestinian diaspora into Jordan's already established, largely Palestinian constitutional monarchy -- now rendered a full-fledged Palestinian state with a Hashemite monarch.
In fact, this model dovetails perfectly with that of their British friends and patrons, whom the Hashemites have long emulated. In both instances you have a royal house ethnically distinct from the people it rules. It can even be argued that the Arabian Hashemites are a good deal closer ethnically to Palestinian Arabs than the German House of Windsor -- formerly Saxe-Coburn and Gotha -- are to the Anglo-Saxons of Britain, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
Thus, the Hashemite dynasty could position itself as an indispensable civilizing and redemptive force in the transformation of the Palestinian People, leading them out of a mire of abusive dysfunction toward a future of stability and progress. In the process, this would allow geographic and political space for Israel to realize its full national and religious patrimony, as well as maximally secure borders. And the resulting disposition of states, demography, and geography -- Israel west of the Jordan River and Palestine east of it -- would combine to create a stable geopolitical balance into the future.
Once this larger geopolitical relationship is established and Palestinian self-determination west of the Jordan is no longer a "do or die proposition," a whole host of lesser problems could be more easily resolved through dignified and symmetrical state-to-state negotiations.
Up 'til now, this option has been assiduously avoided, and the Hashemites themselves have "gone along to get along," kicking the political can down the road at Israel's expense, and ultimately their own peril. But soon this may no longer be a viable option for them. Either they take charge of the situation in a manner consistent with Israel's well-being, or a process of destabilization within their borders could soon ensue, advanced by forces less amenable to compromise than Israel.
The question is, why are these considerations not on the table, or even, it would appear, on the radar screens of American and Israeli policy-makers and strategists?
Who stands to benefit from foreclosing this line of development?
Why is it preferable to put the stability of the State of Israel and the region at risk through demands for Israeli territorial concessions, instead of insisting upon cooperation and assistance from the Hashemite regime, which holds the key to so many of the area's problems?
What must be done to change this state of affairs?
Anyone interested in real peace -- rather than capitulation by Israel, which would render the Jewish state internally dysfunctional and strategically indefensible -- should be working on answers to these questions.
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