The Jordanian option

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IAF helicopters attacked Palestinian terror training camps in Gaza last Saturday and Sunday in an attempt to thwart the Palestinians' rapidly intensifying Kassam rocket offensive on southern Israel. The targeted camps are new blots on the blighted Gazan landscape. They were established shortly after Israel expelled 8,000 of its citizens from their homes in Gush Katif and razed their communities ahead of the IDF retreat from Gaza last summer. The camps were established on the ruins of the communities of Slav and Neve Dekalim.

 

The Palestinian rocket offensive on southern Israel and the establishment of terror training camps on the ruins of Israeli settlements are incontrovertible proof that the Israeli strategy of "disengagement" has failed utterly and completely. During the 38 years of Israel's presence in Gaza, even when things were at their worst, the area never constituted much more than an irritant to Israel's national security.

 

Now, with Hamas in charge and al-Qaida, Iran, Hizbullah, PA militias, Islamic Jihad and Fatah terror-crime mobs running rampant, Gaza has become more than an irritant. Today, Gaza has become a base for global jihad and a source for constant and intensifying destabilization throughout the region. The current rocket offensive from Gaza – for which Israel has yet to come up with any effective response short of invasion – has placed some of Israel's most sensitive national infrastructures under constant attack. The daily shelling of the communities around Gaza imperils the economic viability of southern Israel.

 

Whereas one of the basic rationales given for the "disengagement" was that Israeli presence in Gaza was the main source of friction between Palestinians and Israelis, what is now clear is that Israel's presence in Gaza was a source of stability.

 

Speaking to Newsweek last weekend, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert set out his plans for the future. Olmert declared his intention to push forward with his "convergence" plan in Judea and Samaria. He will forcibly expel tens of thousands of Israelis from their communities and vastly curtail Israel's military control of the areas. And he expects America to support him by financing the resettlement of some 80,000 Israeli refugees and recognizing Israel's self-declared borders. That is, he desires American support for an Israeli implementation of the Gaza expulsions and retreat on a mass scale in the strategically vital areas of Judea and Samaria.

 

TODAY, THERE are two paradigms for contending with the Palestinian conflict with Israel. The first one is to negotiate a peace treaty with the Palestinians in which they will get land and sovereignty in exchange for promising to live at peace with Israel. In a word, this paradigm is the paradigm of appeasement.

 

The second paradigm involves an Israeli retreat from Judea and Samaria and parts of Jerusalem in exchange for nothing whatsoever from the Palestinians. That is, the second paradigm is the paradigm of surrender.

 

The appeasement paradigm failed at the Camp David summit in July 2000 when the Palestinians refused to accept an Israeli offer of almost everything they say they demand – Gaza, Judea and Samaria and east Jerusalem including Judaism's most sacred site, the Temple Mount. Rather than accept the deal which would entail recognizing Israel's right to exist in rump borders, the Palestinians went to war.

 

Instead of accepting the appeasement paradigm's failure, the Israeli Left together with the Arab League, the EU and the US government attempted to artificially resuscitate it. Through a series of reports – Mitchell, Tenet, Zinni and then eventually the road map – the international community and the Israeli Left have maintained the fiction that appeasement is still an option. This is why, even today, when Olmert has moved to the surrender paradigm, he still pays lip service to appeasement by stating that he is willing to negotiate with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas even though Hamas is running the show.

 

Yet lip service aside, Olmert and his cohorts are fully committed to the surrender paradigm and they are gunning for the Bush administration to dump appeasement and join their bandwagon. As Olmert put it to Newsweek, "I understand that if [the retreat and expulsion plan from Judea and Samaria] will be accepted as a contribution to a Middle East with less violence and terror, we will be able to reach an understanding with the American government about some measures of support that can be essential for the success of this move."

 

Unfortunately for the Bush administration, as the Gaza model shows, backing Olmert's plan will mean that the US will be giving its support to a strategy that has no chance whatsoever of making a "contribution to a Middle East with less violence and terror." To the contrary, Olmert's surrender paradigm has made a contribution to violence and terror.

 

So what is the Bush administration to do? Its current paradigm of appeasement has no chance of succeeding and Olmert's paradigm of surrender is also a recipe for failure.

 

LUCKILY, appeasement and surrender are not the only options available for stabilizing the Middle East and diminishing levels of violence and terror. In the current issue of the Middle East Quarterly, Dan Diker and Pinchas Inbari outline a paradigm that has a better chance of success than either appeasement or surrender.

 

Their article, "Re-energizing a West Bank-Jordan Alliance" notes that Israel and Jordan today share a cardinal interest in ensuring that Judea and Samaria do not follow the Gaza model. As they demonstrate, there is reason to believe that from this convergence of interests, a strategy can emerge that will be capable of succeeding where appeasement and surrender fail.

 

The Jordanian regime is today subject to two sources of turbulence that have the potential to destroy it. First there is Iraq. Iraq's political and military instability wreaks havoc on Jordan which is economically dependent on its eastern neighbor. Jordanian terrorist and al-Qaida commander in Iraq Abu Musab Zarkawi has targeted the Hashemite regime. Al-Qaida has cells throughout Jordan. Al-Qaida operatives attacked Eilat with Katyushas from Akaba on August 19 and they targeted Amman itself in the hotel bombings last November.

 

Al-Qaida's spread from Iraq to Jordan is now, in the wake of Israel's retreat from Gaza being followed by its spread to Gaza and Judea and Samaria. As Jordanian diplomats explained to Diker and Inbari last September, Jordan is deeply opposed to Olmert's proposed Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria. In their view, such a retreat would cause a spread of Gazan and Iraqi style chaos to Judea and Samaria. Such chaos could easily endanger the Hashemite regime.

 

UNTIL 1988, Arabs in Judea and Samaria were Jordanian citizens. Fearing that the Palestinian uprising which began that year would destabilize his kingdom, the late King Hussein renounced Jordan's claims to sovereignty over the areas. Yet Jordan has remained actively engaged in the areas. Some 70 percent of Jordanians define themselves as Palestinians and most Jordanians have family in Judea and Samaria. Trade between the two banks of the Jordan is intense. King Abdullah's wife Rania is a Palestinian. In naming their son Hussein the crown prince of Jordan, Abdullah has effectively transformed the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan into the Hashemite-Palestinian Kingdom of Jordan-Palestine.

 

Inbari and Diker believe that the Jordanian regime may be willing today to entertain a strategy of federating or confederating with Judea and Samaria. The advantage of such a policy for the Palestinians is that as citizens of overwhelmingly Palestinian Jordan, they would no longer be stateless. The advantage for Israel and Jordan would be that th
e threat that the PA's chronic instability poses to both states' security would be remedied by the presence of two sovereigns – at peace with one another, with decades of military cooperation behind them, and a shared interest in destroying all vestiges of Islamist terror cells in the area – in charge.

 

Although they do not discuss the issue of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria in their article, there is no reason to think that a confederative or federative arrangement that would place Jordan in charge of the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria would necessitate any limitation on the right of Israel to remain responsible for the Israelis who live in the areas. Clear and straightforward arrangements regarding citizenship and security responsibilities for both the Palestinians and the Israelis can be reached with little more than a handshake given the depth of Israel and Jordan's shared interests.

 

ONE OF the main reasons that the notion of Palestinian statehood – upon which the appeasement and surrender paradigms are based – is acceptable to Israelis is because it is believed that if the Palestinians are given sovereignty they will begin to behave like a responsible member of the community of states. Sadly, events of the past 13 years have proven repeatedly that conferring the Palestinians with the accoutrements of statehood – including sovereignty in Gaza — exacerbates Palestinian support for jihad and instability.

 

With Hamas in charge of the PA and global jihadist terror groups backed by Iran on the march in Gaza and Judea and Samaria, further empowerment of the Palestinians will endanger the survivability of Jordan and Israel. But as Inbari and Diker show, other options exist. If the Americans wish to support an Israeli policy that will, as Olmert says make "a contribution to a Middle East with less violence and terror," they should suggest that he consider switching his paradigm to one that has a chance of achieving that goal.

 

 

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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