King Abdullah’s Flawed Ploy
During his recent visit to Washington to meet with President Obama, King Abdullah II of Jordan was interviewed on “CBS This Morning.” Displaying his keen sense of the terrible neighborhood in which his kingdom is embedded, he identified the war against ISIS jihadi terrorists as “clearly a fight between good and evil.”
Believing that they threaten “a third world war by other means,” he boldly called upon Arab and Islamic nations “to stand up” and demonstrate their resolute opposition to this “war inside of Islam” by “fighting back.” It was a rousing – perhaps unrivaled – appeal by an Arab leader for a demonstration of wisdom and courage in confronting the virulent Muslim poison within their midst.
But the King, as his survival strategy requires, played both sides of a volatile issue. He pointedly identified two possible resolutions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: a one-state or two-state solution. But he erroneously cited “the demographic threat” to Israel, with a Palestinian majority west of the Jordan River eventually outnumbering the Jewish population. Then he posed the dilemma that Israel presumably confronts: the choice between a democratic or “apartheid” (i.e. Jewish) state. “The two state solution,” he concluded, “is the only solution.” It would, however, be a three-state solution, comprising Jordan, Israel and Palestine-on-the-West Bank.
The King chose not to mention that Palestinians have rejected every two-state solution since 1937, when the British Peel Commission proposed the second partition of Palestine. The first came fifteen years earlier, when British Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill lopped off three-quarters of Mandatory Palestine as a gift to Abdullah’s great-grandfather for his wartime loyalty to the Allied cause. But unwilling to tolerate a Jewish state of any size in their midst, Arab leaders rejected the Peel proposal, the UN partition plan that followed a decade later, and even the dangerously generous two-state offers, involving huge Israeli land concessions, offered by Prime Ministers Barak and Olmert.
King Abdullah also chose (understandably) to ignore the demographic reality in Jordan, which poses a significant threat to the stability of his own regime. For obvious reasons, his kingdom provides no official census data about its Palestinian inhabitants. Best estimates (including by the U.S. State Department) indicate that they comprise more than half, and perhaps as high as two-thirds, of the Jordanian population.
In sum: the Hashemite king rules over a majority Palestinian population in two-thirds of Palestine. In translation: the Palestinians already have a state named Jordan, located in Palestine, and comprise a majority of its population. That is as it should be: the fulfillment of international assurances to Jews, and British promises to the Hashemites, that date back nearly a century.
Across the Jordan River to the West, the demographic reality decisively favors Israel – even if every West Bank Palestinian were to become a citizen of the Jewish state (which will never happen). Just as Jordanians deny the identity of the Palestinian majority they rule, so Palestinians inflate their own numbers in the former West Bank, more appropriately identified as Judea and Samaria – the biblical homeland of the Jewish people.
The Palestinian Central Bureau of Labor Statistics, waging what it has labeled a “civil intifada” against Israel, insists that 2.6 million Palestinians inhabit this contested territory. But according to Israeli demographer Yoram Ettinger, the Palestinian Bureau has inflated the actual number of West Bank Palestinians (1.6 million) by two-thirds, including overseas residents, under-reporting Palestinian emigration, and double-counting Jerusalem Arabs.
Between the Jordan and Mediterranean two-thirds of the population is Jewish. Furthermore, during the past twenty years Palestinian birth rates have stabilized while Jewish births have significantly increased. “There is no demographic machete,” Ettinger concluded, “at the throat of the Jewish state.”
King Abdullah finds himself trapped between Palestinian rocks in hard places: his own Jordanian kingdom and its lost West Bank. As Mudar Zahran, a Jordanian Palestinian political refugee residing in London has written (Middle East Q., Winter 2012), the King “is merely using [Palestinians] as pawns in his game against Israel by threatening to make [it] responsible for Jordanians of Palestinian descent in the name of the ‘right of return.'”
King Abdullah’s verbal gymnastics should not be permitted to conceal the truths of ancient Jewish claims to their promised land. Nor should they hide the reality of the return to the Land of Israel launched by Zionist settlers in the 19th century, long before the Kingdom of Jordan was imagined by his Hashemite ancestors. King Abdullah’s ruse may sell in the Arab shuk to Israel-bashing tourists, but any knowledgeable shopper would instantly detect its fraudulence.
Jerold S. Auerbach is a frequent contributor to The Algemeiner.