A West Bank-Jordan Alliance?
About This Event

For the first time since 1988, when the late King Hussein of Jordan officially ceded Jordanian claims to the West Bank, Palestinians and Jordanians are engaging in serious discussion about their mutual interest for stability in the West Bank.

With an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank possible, influential Palestinians and Jordanians are debating new models for much closer security, economic, and political cooperation between the West Bank and Jordan. Will West Bank Palestinians seek to ally themselves with an Islamist Gaza mired in lawlessness, or will they stake their security and economic fortunes to the Hashemite Kingdom? Does such a linkage represent the Palestinians’ best chance to achieve a viable state?

These and other questions will be the subject of an AEI panel discussion. Abdul Salam al-Majali, Jordanian senator and former prime minister; Sai’d Kan’an, director of the Center for Palestine Research in Nablus; Rami Nasrallah, head of the International Peace Cooperation Center in Jerusalem; and eminent historian Bernard Lewis will discuss the merits of a West Bank–Jordan alliance and its implications for the creation of a viable Palestinian state. AEI resident scholar Michael Rubin will moderate.

Agenda
11:45 a.m.
Registration and Luncheon
12:00
Introduction:
Danielle Pletka, AEI
Panelists:
Abdul Salam al-Majali, Jordanian Senator
Sai’d Kan’an, Center for Palestine Research and Studies
Bernard Lewis, Princeton University
Rami Nasrallah, International Peace Cooperation Center
Moderator:
Michael Rubin, AEI
2:00
Adjournment
Event Summary

May 2006

A West Bank-Jordan Alliance?

For the first time since 1988, when the late King Hussein of Jordan officially ceded Jordanian claims to the West Bank, Palestinians and Jordanians are engaging in serious discussion about their mutual interest for stability in the West Bank. With an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank possible, influential Palestinians and Jordanians are debating new models for closer security, economic, and political cooperation between the West Bank and Jordan. Will West Bank Palestinians seek to ally themselves with an Islamist Gaza mired in lawlessness, or stake their security and economic fortunes to the Hashemite Kingdom. Does such a linkage represent the Palestinians’ best chance to achieve a viable state? These and other questions were the subject of a June 6 AEI panel discussion.

Rami Nasrallah
International Peace Cooperation Center

Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert’s convergence plan for withdrawal from the West Bank constitutes a demographic security plan based on Israel’s unilateral interests. By placing Palestinians in demographically concentrated areas, Israel seeks to prohibit the possibility of a binational state. Olmert’s proposed disengagement does not represent an acceptable, territorial compromise between the Israelis and Palestinians. 

In the years following the Oslo Accords, both parties failed to implement the treaty’s central tenets. As a result, Oslo brought security neither to Palestine nor to Israel.

Thus, rejuvenating the Israeli-Palestinian peace process requires a restructuring of the bilateral framework along four parallel tracks. First, the Palestinian Authority must undertake a unilateral reform to develop political institutions and the rule of law, foster economic growth, and stamp out government corruption.

Second, both parties should implement a new plan that removes all political and physical barriers to negotiation in order to enhance the prospects of a viable and democratic Palestinian state. Third, future peace negotiations must be constructive in ridding the Palestinians of their relief and donation mentality.

Finally, the need exists to create regional security and economic cooperation which will serve as a support system to any Israeli-Palestinian peace process, especially one in which Jordan plays an integral role.

Abdul Salam al-Majali
Former Jordanian Prime Minister

The Jordanian-Palestinian relationship, though only recently institutionalized after the Ottoman Empire’s dissolution, is a historic one characterized by commercial and cultural links. But given the recent creation of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1950, bilateral relations remain somewhat murky. 

A comprehensive peace formula among the Jordanians, the Palestinians, Israelis, and even the United States must be based on compromise. This is imperative, since compromises are built on give and take.

The establishment of a federation between the West Bank and Jordan can achieve the aspirations of all parties involved. Such a union, perhaps named the United Hashemite States, would encompass a bicameral and democratically elected parliament, government ministries, and an executive power. This state would derive its authority from two sources--the speaker of the house and the executive. Palestinians and Jordanians would alternate these positions every four years.

Nationality is perhaps one of the most important components in realizing a West Bank-- Jordan federation. As such, citizens residing in the United Hashemite States would retain their Palestinian or Jordanian nationality as their primary nationality, while using the federation as a secondary classification. An analogous situation currently exists in the European Union.

Not only will this resolution ensure Palestinian integrity, it will provide the Palestinian people with a depth of relations with Jordan and its Arab neighbors. Israel will reap the security benefits from a democratic, viable Palestinian neighbor, as will Lebanon, whose 400,000 Palestinian refugees will attain citizenship in the proposed federation.

Nasser Yousef
Former Palestinian Authority Interior Minister

After nearly twenty years of Palestinian--Jordanian disengagement, and more than ten years of Oslo’s failures, the Israel-Palestinian peace process must be reevaluated to find a way forward. The outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada in 2000 only strained the bilateral relations between the two partners.

Consequently, there are virtually no confidence-building measures in place between the two sides, especially in the security, economic, and political realm. Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert’s unilateral convergence plan will only serve to exacerbate the current negotiating impasse.

Forward progress requires third-party intervention to guarantee Israel’s security and Palestine’s political future. The unique geographic, cultural, and economic linkages between Palestinians and Jordanians, predating their institutionalized relations, can advance the cause of peace. Such a federal relationship between the Jordanians and Palestinians--one consistent with past Palestinian National Council resolutions--would be predicated on political cooperation and security coordination with Jordanian forces.

Jordan will also play an instrumental role in resolving the refugee, water, and security issues--all bilateral concerns. A federal relationship with Jordan would culminate in a viable, Palestinian political entity living alongside Israel in peace and security.

Bernard Lewis
Princeton University

The prospect of a West Bank-Jordanian alliance must be placed in the historical context of Middle Eastern frontiers. In the greater Middle East, current international boundaries result from the 20th century inventions of the British and French mandatory powers.

Reverting to the borders of 1967 Israel--that is, the armistice lines following the War of Independence in 1948--has always been a topic of much discussion. But there exists no international frontier between Israel and any Palestinian entity--only demarcations based on the 1948 ceasefire agreement.

Given the modern, yet artificial identities of Palestinians and Jordanians, the historical experience of those included in Palestine and those now included in Jordan is strikingly similar. These identities are alien, but powerful and persistent. Presently, the idea of a single state in Palestine, including both Israelis and Palestinians, is not seriously on the table. Rather, it is the polite equivalent for the liquidation of Israel’s Jewish majority, which it would certainly achieve if accepted. 

AEI research assistant Jeffrey Azarva prepared this summary.

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