Toward a Hashemite Palestine
In an unusually candid interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, to be published in the Atlantic Monthly and reported in the New York Times ("Jordan's King Finds Fault With Everyone Concerned," March 18, 2013, by David D. Kirkpatrick), King Abdullah of Jordan offers a critique of Middle East politics ranging from the authoritarianism of regional leaders to the pro-Muslim Brotherhood illusions of U.S. State Department diplomats, even including a thoroughly unflattering assessment of the blind corruption of his own royal household and the tribal-based political "dinosaurs" he must contend with standing in the way of internal reforms. He affirms, moreover, his belief that "the era of Arab monarchies is passing" and makes clear his commitment to fully transform the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan into a constitutional monarchy on the British model.
King Abdullah's perspective and the destabilizing challenges he faces might well provide a golden opportunity for the U.S. to secure its vital interests in the Middle East and broker resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, were it not for our own diplomatic "dinosaurs" and policy-makers whom the king so candidly disparages.
Clearly his regime is faced with major threats to its continued existence, and from his statements it is also clear that he feels it necessary to pre-empt an "Arab Spring" within his borders by being the agent of political liberalization -- including greater representation of his "Palestinian" subjects, who constitute well over 50% of the population, according to the article (but in fact a good deal more).
The implications of such a program are revolutionary.
As soon as that objective is realized, you have, in effect, a Palestinian State situated in the largest portion (three quarters) of former pre-White Paper Mandatory Palestine. What is more, the U.S. must soon answer the question of what to do strategically in the wake of a diminished presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially in the face of growing Iranian strength and belligerence. And the uncertain future of Iraq and Syria place the Hashemite Kingdom very much on the strategic frontlines.
Taken together, the Arab Spring-turned-Winter, the draw-down of American forces in high-risk forward positions in the region, the growing Iranian threat, and the apparent enlightened disposition of the Hashemite monarch suggest a daring proposition:
An American-Jordanian defense pact premised on the commitment of the Jordanian monarch to fully support resolution of the Palestinian problem under Hashemite auspices.
Such an agreement would include:
- Establishment of major U.S. bases in the sparsely populated and relatively secure regions of eastern Jordan;
- U.S. commitment to sustain and develop the economic and political viability of a Hashemite constitutional monarchy on the British model; and
- A declaration by the king embracing the historic relationship between the Hashemite Kingdom and its indigenous Palestinian subjects, respecting their majority as per the British model of an ethnically different crown and populace, and officially ending Palestinian statelessness within the boundaries of historical eastern Palestine (now Jordan).
An appropriate name-change confirming this partnership would also be in order: The Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine, or The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordanian Palestine.
The benefits of such a transformation would be profound: securing stability and long-term development in Jordan/Palestine, providing the U.S. with a major military presence in easy striking distance of potential adversaries at little immediate risk, defusing the Arab-Israeli conflict, and providing a great economic boon to the region as a whole.
Remaining problems regarding disposition of Arab populations west of the Jordan River could then be worked out through symmetric state-to-state negotiations between Israel and a fully-fledged, moderate Palestinian state, rather than an embryonic and unstable Palestinian "Authority" prone to ideological extremes and unable to deliver reliable commitments on behalf of its people.
Moreover, the fact that Palestinian statelessness had already been resolved in a venue far more ample than the confines of the West Bank/Judea & Samaria -- and far less threatening to Israel -- would greatly ease those negotiations, making them a question of local jurisdiction and administration rather than a "do or die" struggle for Palestinian independence.
This vision should be the goal of American diplomacy in the region: a potential solution to a long-intractable problem that will bring real "change" -- not the illusion of change (or change for the worse, which we are now seeing) and a winning proposition for all parties concerned.
There is, of course, no guarantee that Abdullah will sign on to this proposal, but the advantages to his government are compelling. Such an agreement would promise his tenuous Hashemite regime continued viability and progress well into the future, while securing for the king historic status as a pre-eminently great Arab leader and protector of the Palestinian people.
(And if that were not enough, it could position his house for even greater glory through an eventual return to its former rule of the Hejaz in a post-Saudi Arabia, replacing that medieval tyranny and its retrograde oil cartel with an enlightened, modern, pro-Western leader sensitive to the needs of the industrialized world and his people.)
There is little doubt about the desirability of such an outcome. There is also little doubt that there are well-entrenched forces of reaction within our own diplomatic and intelligence communities standing in the way of such reforms.
The question is, can our diplomatic "dinosaurs" be replaced by a more advanced life-form? And how might the arrival of the requisite political comet be arranged?