In 1974, the late King Hussein s pleas to Arab leaders to preserve the unity of the two banks of the Jordan and to give Jordanian diplomacy a chance to reach a disengagement of forces on the Jordanian front following the 1973 war fell on deaf ears. The Arab summit in Rabat recognized the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinians. But in the absence of mutual recognition between the PLO and Israel, discussion over an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank ended for nearly two decades.
A mirror image scenario of that of 1974 is taking place today. No matter how much Jordan stresses its dismissal and rejection of any discussion of Jordanian-Palestinian relations prior to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the areas occupied in 1967, many analysts, activists, and some politicians still insist on discussing and debating these relations, and even designing recipes and formulas for them – as if Jordanian rejections have been falling on deaf ears.
Thus it was no surprise that King Abdullah II stated in the most clear and forthright manner that this suggestion, at this particular stage, is a conspiracy against Palestine and Jordan ….and it is out of the question that we accept such settlements no matter what the extent of the pressures.
The suggestions regarding Jordanian-Palestinian relations came against the backdrop of the Hamas coup in Gaza last June that created a geographic and political separation within Palestinian ranks. The objective behind these suggestions is far from a just and comprehensive settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. Rather, they introduce a partial quick fix that will neither provide Israelis with security nor bring the Palestinians closer to realizing their national aspirations of statehood and independence in the territories occupied in 1967.
Since 1974, Jordan s position has been to bring the Israelis and the PLO, as the sole legitimate representative of Palestinians, to the negotiating table. The formulas suggested recently, of federation or confederation, were no more than agreed-upon maneuvers between Jordan and the Palestinian leadership in the mid-1980s to bypass the argument of the absence of a Palestinian peace partner and bring the Palestinians and the Israelis to negotiate a settlement.
The 1993 accords between Israel and the PLO further reinforced the Jordanian interest in a two-state solution. This position is inspired by Jordan s national interest in ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and is based on the firm belief that this conflict is the root cause of the many ills of the region.
In realizing the Jordanian national interest in a two-state solution in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the sole legitimate vehicle has been and will continue to be the PLO. From a Jordanian perspective, any deviation from this approach will lead to a return to the pre-1993 situation regarding the search for a peace partner, with all that this involves in terms of regional competition, rivalry, outbidding and intervention in Palestinian decision-making – historically one of the main negative factors preventing a just and comprehensive settlement. The PLO has been the only umbrella that unites Palestinians everywhere and can provide Palestinian legitimacy to a peace settlement. Thus Jordan sees positively all steps within the PLO that lead to strengthening and enhancing that organization and that allow Palestinians to speak in a united and recognized voice in order to reach their national objective of statehood.
One of the main pillars of Jordanian foreign policy today rests in Jordan s perception of the historic opportunity presented by the Arab peace initiative. That initiative provides for an end of conflict scenario to be reached through negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. In addition the initiative, launched at the Beirut Arab summit and reaffirmed and re-launched at the recent Riyadh summit, has provided the most comprehensive formula in the history of the conflict that is backed by a collective Arab position.
This necessitates maintaining the focus on the two-state solution as the basis for fulfilling the opportunity presented by the Arab peace initiative. It requires all parties concerned to demonstrate further commitment to legitimate Palestinian institutions. Hence any deviation from the two-state solution, whether through Palestinian infighting and rivalry or through suggestions of federation or confederation with Jordan, can lead the region to miss this historic opportunity and allow radical trends to dominate discourse at the expense of regional peace and security.
Nawaf W. Tellis an associate research fellow at the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan. This commentary is published by DAILY NEWS EGYPT in collaboration with bitterlemons-international.org.