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September 4, 2011 2:12 am

The Coming Opportunity

avatar by Yoel Meltzer

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King Abdullah II of Jordan. Photo: World Economic Forum.

Should the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN fail to produce any tangible results, then the current events in Syria might have the unexpected effect of presenting Israel and the region with a very rare opportunity.

In addition to Hezbollah possibly losing support from Syria (should Assad fall)—certainly a positive development for the region—the ouster of the Syrian dictator will have serious ramifications for the Hashemite regime in Jordan.

Although not considered a ruthless dictator like Assad, King Abdullah is similar in that he represents a very small ruling minority. In Syria there are the Alawites, while in Jordan there are the Hashemites. Moreover, most of the sources of power are historically concentrated in the hands of the Hashemites and their assorted Bedouin allies, while much of the roughly 70% Palestinian majority feels alienated or oppressed. Not surprisingly, the Palestinian majority would welcome a real change in Jordan.

While the protests in Jordan have not reached the same level of intensity as in other Arab countries, they are nevertheless constant and are accompanied by repeated calls for change. Moreover, attempts by the king to placate his critics by offering to implement various reforms have been rejected, since, in the eyes of the opposition, such changes still allow the king to preserve most of his absolute powers.

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With the pressure mounting, the king is surely looking at events in Syria with a very watchful eye. If such a ruthless and feared dictator as Assad, not to mention long time Arab rulers like Mubarak or Gaddafi, can be toppled and removed from power, then the relatively weaker King Abdullah probably understands that his days as the leader of Jordan are numbered.  The tsunami of change sweeping the region simply cannot be stopped.

This being the case, Israel and its supporters should start planning now for the “day after” in Jordan, rather than waiting for chaos to grip its eastern neighbor. Moreover, the incentive should not only be to preserve stability on the border, itself an important priority, but rather the understanding that if the king proves to be another victim of the regional change then the region will be presented with a historic opportunity to finally settle the issue, once and for all.

September events at the UN aside, it seems clear that the Oslo two-state approach is a failure and that further territorial concessions by Israel may lead to further warfare.  As Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” In such an environment, the paradigm for settling the dispute must be changed.

For this reason Israel and its supporters would be wise to discreetly begin dialogue with alternative opposition leaders in Jordan. One such thinker is Mudar Zahran, a former Jordanian political insider turned dissident, who is openly promoting the “Jordan is Palestine” option as the only solution capable of bringing real peace and stability to the region. Moreover, his calls for the establishment of a real democratic state in Jordan—one that will enjoy peaceful ties with Israel and will focus on the development of a thriving open economy as a means to encourage Palestinians from around the world, including from Judea and Samaria, to opt for a life in Jordan—is something that should be welcomed by anyone who truly cares about the region. Still further, such an option would be the only realistic way to end the decades-long humanitarian crisis that cynically has been perpetuated by UNRWA without actually destroying Israel.

Should Israel and its supporters fail to seize the opportunity to finally settle the Palestinian issue, then the eventual fall of King Abdullah will create the usual vacuum which in all likelihood will be filled by various anti-Israel and anti-American forces.

Yoel Meltzer is a freelance writer living in Jerusalem. His personal blog is www.yoelmeltzer.com

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