Peace: Is Jordan an Option?
Nearly 20 years after the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians was initiated at the Madrid Conference, we have seen years of stalemate. Even with all the billions of dollars being spent by the international community and all of the pressure being exerted on Israel to establish a Palestinian state in areas captured by Israel from Egypt and Jordan in 1967, Israeli leadership knows that progress in this direction would be dangerous – to say the least – for the future of the state of Israel. The Israeli leaders make great efforts to seem accommodating to the concept of Two States, but on the other hand they thank G-d for every refusal by the Palestinian side. Ironically, it is they, the Palestinian leadership, who are the greatest hope that a Palestinian state will not emerge in Judea and Samaria.
It is obvious to all involved at this point that the peace process is going nowhere and that the PA leadership is responsible. Everyone, including the Palestinians themselves, agree that the Oslo Accords and the PA are a disappointment and have failed. But, for lack of a better idea, all continue to push the Oslo agenda as if that is the only path possible to facilitate peace in the Middle East. Some are so caught up in the “Two States” mantra that they seem not to realize that Israel and the Palestinians have not been at the core of all the tension and conflict in the Middle East over the past year.
With the widespread Arab Spring uprisings, governments throughout the Arab world are shaking from the demand for rights and changes in leadership. In Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria, people are being killed in their quest for freedom. While the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria have taken to the streets in the past, this year has been relatively quiet. That should be a sign to all that the people realize their status quo under Israeli rule is far better than they can expect under Arab leadership. They have seen the PLO and Hamas oppress them here and they see what is going on in neighboring states. At this point, as the majority of Arabs in Jerusalem have been telling the polls, life under Israel is their choice. As gratifying as this choice may be, Israel, too, has its own concerns. Israel is meant to be a Jewish State. Not wanting to lose its identity to a large non-Jewish population, many Israelis have supported the idea of cutting off Judea and Samaria. Not so much because they disregard the Jewish claim to this land, but because they wish to “lose” the large Arab population there.
There is another option that could satisfy the call for self-determination for the Arabs of the pre-Israel Palestine Mandate region – even though they never had their own country and were not considered a nation independent of the Arab community. Many Israelis are uncomfortable with using the term “Palestinian” because it seems to give legitimacy to the claim that they are a distinct people who should have their own country. I too tended to refrain from using this terminology until I came across a Jordanian national of Palestinian descent. Mudar Zahran is a Jordanian resident taking refuge in the UK. His “crime” is that he wishes to hold true democratic elections in Jordan, to allow their population a choice of leadership. Currently, Jordan’s large “Palestinian” population is ruled by a small Bedouin minority, and their little King Abdullah. Abdullah himself is a British national supported by the U.S. and England. How ironic that those western countries that are so concerned that Israel grant rights to her Arab population sponsor Abdullah’s regime right next door.
Loyal Zionists like myself might have a hard time tapping into the “Jordan is Palestine” concept because it could be understood as forfeiting rights of the Jewish people to the land of Israel as promised to our fathers by G-d in the Bible. As the great Zionist leader and politician wrote: “There are two banks to the Jordan River; this one is mine and so is the other . . .” The reality is that the land east of the Jordan River is not under Jewish jurisdiction today, and there are no plans to change that in the works. Maybe at this time it would be wise to merge the two ideas: Two States living in peace, side by side, with the Jordan River between them.
This could solve a number of problems, offering the Arabs of Israel the choice of migrating a short distance to achieve their aspiration to live in their own Arab country. The democratically elected government of that country could choose to rename it Palestine, if their people so please. And uncountable amounts of expenditures would be saved – both on international aid for the endless and so far unfruitful efforts to accommodate the establishment of a Palestinian state, and also in military spending by Israel that is currently necessary to defend itself from the Palestinian threat. Israel could afford to be helpful to the new country by helping it establish workplaces and agriculture to feed its people and manage its water.
“Only Israel West of the Jordan” could be compatible with “Jordan is Palestine”: Two States living in peace, side by side, with a river between them.
David Ha’ivri is the director of the Shomron Liaison Office. He and his wife Mollie live in Kfar Tapuach, Shomron with their eight children. You can follow him on Twitter @haivri