The President yesterday landed in Israel as part of his tour through the Middle East. The President reiterated his goal to achieve peace between the two nations in a deal that he would benefit both parties. However, the question is what would that look like? The UN initially partitioned the region into two different countries until, over time, Israel annexed all the remaining territories of Palestine. Should we go back to the two state solution?
There is very little to work with given the history and religion of the conflict coupled with the reduced size of territory of both parties. There is another fundamental hindrance: Palestine is not a state, but an unpredictable, institutionally inverted movement divided between Islamists, who dream of an Arab nation without limits, and ineffective secular nationalists, who rejected four times (in 1937, 1947, 2000 And 2008) offers to create a Palestinian state.
There is an alternative to a two-state solution that takes these factors into account: the West Bank could return to Jordan, which would then become a kind of Jordanian-Palestinian confederation. In essence, this option represents a return to the parameters of the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, where the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation represented the Palestinian cause.
Israel, in this scenario, would have the benefit of having a State with a tradition of negotiating and friendly diplomatic relations as a neighbor. This should be enough to encourage Israeli leaders to at least consider the option and behave with less falsehood than they have shown in the negotiations with the Palestinians.
If Israel fails to rely on Palestinian institutional weakness as a justification for its continued occupation of the West Bank, Jordan control would benefit Palestine. In addition, Israel could not, as it has tried in the past, annex strategic areas of the West Bank and return the rest to Jordan, but would have to withdraw to the 1967 borders with agreed land modifications and exchanges.
Palestinians seem to recognize these benefits. In 2013, according to surveys conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy Research and Surveys, 55 per cent of Palestinians favored the Jordanian option (a 10 per cent increase over five years).
Perhaps the biggest obstacle is Jordan, which is not interested in getting involved. The late King Hussein feared that an independent Palestinian state could become a radical irredentist entity. In 1988, Hussein dismissed Jordan’s claims to the West Bank but it was never ratified in Parliament and is still considered by many to be unconstitutional.
Fear for Palestinian instability also prompted two former Jordanian prime ministers, Abdel Salam al-Majali and Taher al-Masri, to defend a Jordanian-Palestinian confederation. Majali continues to be an unconditional advocate of the idea, something he made clear in a recent meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. His intricate 2007 plan, undoubtedly shared with King Abdullah, was instigated by prospects of chaos should an Israeli government decide to ensure the survival of his country as a Jewish state by withdrawing from much of the West Bank. The Jordanian government feared that the chaos could spread to the West Bank and give a fatal blow to the kingdom.
The international community is about to embark, once again, on a peace process that seeks to create an orderly, viable and independent Palestinian state in the West Bank. It would be the most fair result. Unfortunately, it is unlikely, which leaves us with the Jordanian-Palestinian confederation as the last hope of a Palestinian state.