Where Jordan And The Palestinians Part Company – OpEd


On January 24, for the first time in over four years, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu  flew to Jordan to meet King Abdullah II, in an effort, no doubt, to start his new period in office with a clean slate.  He doubtless recalled the episode in 2019, toward the end of his previous term in office, when Abdullah declared to the world that relations between his country and Israel were “at an all-time low”.  Abdullah, too, may have wished to ensure no repeat of the previous public clash.

In one sense nothing much had changed.  As ever Abdullah focused, as the official Jordanian account of the meeting puts it, “on the need to respect the historical and legal status quo at the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif and not to harm it.”

This was a covert reference to the visit by Israel’s new national security minister, Itamar Ben Gvir, to the Temple Mount on January 3 – a visit which did not breach the status quo in any way, but which led to furious condemnation from the Arab world. 

Equally familiar during their meeting was Abdullah’s reiteration, for the umpteenth time, of his support for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian dispute.  He favors establishing a sovereign Palestinian state within territory captured by Israel in the Six Day War, including east Jerusalem.

On the face of it, this demand puts Jordan arm-in-arm with the Palestinian Authority (PA), both apparently seeking precisely the same from Israel.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Jordan believes that the active involvement of the US would be vital to any attempt to resolve the Arab-Israel conflict, and that Jordan would have a key role to play.  Abdullah met US President Joe Biden in Washington on February 2 when, according to media reports, Biden “reaffirmed his strong support for a two-state solution”, and recognized Jordan’s “critical role” in maintaining regional stability.

The PA leadership has a quite different view.  They broke off diplomatic relations with the US after then-President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017 and moved the US embassy to Jerusalem in May 2018.  That chasm remains as wide as ever.  The US now has no official diplomatic offices in the Palestinian territories, and provides no consular services to Palestinians.  Equally, the Palestinians have had no diplomatic representation in the US since the closure of the PLO mission in Washington in October 2018. Palestinian leaders maintain that they would refuse to engage in any peace effort in which the US was dominant.

Explaining the position of the PA leadership, Dr Abdullah Swalha, founder and director of the Center for Israel Studies in Amman, said: “They can count on the Europeans, Japan and other countries, as well as the halls of the UN and some international human rights platforms.”

That difference between Jordan and the PA over the role of the US is exacerbated by their different positions on the two-state solution.  For the Fatah-controlled PA public advocacy of partition remains the tactical ploy originally conceived by Yasser Arafat at Oslo in 1993 – a ploy which has proved remarkably successful in winning world support for the Palestinians.  

Not long after the conclusion of Oslo 2 in 1995, Arafat held what was intended to be a secret meeting with Arab leaders in a Stockholm hotel. To his embarrassment, both his tactical plans and his strategic objectives were leaked to the Norwegian daily, Dagen. Among much else, he told Arab leaders that the PLO intends: “…to eliminate the state of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian state.”  The failure of the PA over the years to sign up to any of the increasingly generous partition deals subsequently tabled has demonstrated the sham that the ploy is.   

The Hamas organization regarded the Oslo Accord of 1993 as a total betrayal of the Palestinian cause, and broke with Arafat completely. On 5 September 1993, shortly after the terms were announced, Hamas issued its Leaflet 102 condemning both the agreement and the PLO leadership: “We will therefore insist on wrecking this agreement, and continue the resistance struggle and our jihad against the occupation power… Arafat’s leadership is responsible for destroying Palestinian society and sowing the seeds of discord and division among Palestinians.”

Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, which contains some 40% of the Palestinian population. It  regards Israel as an illegal occupier of Palestinian land, and its purpose is to remove Israel through armed struggle and terror, and occupy all the land “from the river to the sea”.  It rejects the tactics of the PA leadership, and has consistently opposed Abbas’s apparent advocacy, in the UN and more widely, for a two-state solution, since one of the two states would be Israel. 

Jordan, together with the majority of world opinion, fails to take account of the realities of championing a two-state solution.  Nobody acknowledges that the real long-term objective of the Palestinian leadership is to gain control of all of what was Mandate Palestine, and that any PA leader signing up to a two-state deal would be regarded as a traitor to the Palestinian cause. Which is why no Palestinian leader has done so.

However, even if the PA could be induced to do so, Hamas and the 40% of the Palestinian population occupying Gaza would never come on board.  They would never recognize Israel’s right to exist in the region.  So what sort of sovereign Palestinian state could it be, shorn of half the Palestinian population?

There is an uncomfortable truth that Jordan, the US and all genuine supporters of the two-state solution must eventually face up to.  An essential prerequisite to any two-state solution would have to be the disempowerment of the Hamas organization.

Neville Teller

Neville Teller's latest book is ""Trump and the Holy Land: 2016-2020". He has written about the Middle East for more than 30 years, has published five books on the subject, and blogs at "A Mid-East Journal". Born in London and a graduate of Oxford University, he is also a long-time dramatist, writer and abridger for BBC radio and for the UK audiobook industry. He was made an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours, 2006 "for services to broadcasting and to drama."

One thought on “Where Jordan And The Palestinians Part Company – OpEd

  • March 12, 2023 at 8:27 am

    Has the author not heard of the Saudi-based Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine solution published on 8 June 2022 – calling for the creation of a single territorial entity under Hashemite rule comprising Jordan, Gaza and part of Judea and Samaria (West Bank)? Jordan’s King Abdullah, PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman have not uttered one word rejecting this solution in the 10 months since its publication. How could this article be written without any mention or consideration of this latest development?


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