Two recent events confirm that Jordan is seriously considering replacing the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as Israel’s negotiating partner to resolve the allocation of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) between Israel and Jordan:
1. The ending of a 9 months diplomatic impasse between Jordan and Israel following Jordan’s acceptance of Amir Weissbrod as Israel’s new ambassador to Jordan.
Jordan’s approval came after the two countries agreed to end their standoff following the shooting deaths of two Jordanians in the Israeli Embassy compound by an Israeli security guard who Israel alleged opened fire in self-defence after one of the men tried to stab him.
Weissbrod will replace former ambassador Einat Schlein, who had hurriedly left Amman last July following this incident.
Restoration of full diplomatic ties will facilitate Israel and Jordan’s ability to amicably resolve the division of Judea and Samaria (West Bank) between their two respective states within the framework of their existing 1994 Peace Treaty – ending a long-running border dispute dating back to 1922.
2. The publication by the Jordan Times on 31 March of an article by Jordanian journalist Nermeen Murad headlined “Should Jordan claim the West Bank on our behalf? An old yet new question”
The Jordan Times is published by the Jordan Press Foundation – in which the government-owned Social Security Investment Fund has a majority stake.
The provocative headline suggests the Government could be flying a trial balloon to gauge public opinion should Jordan decide to negotiate with Israel.Murad opines:
'Did the Arab world and the Palestinian leadership make a strategic mistake when they kick started a political process that drove Jordan to the 1988 decision to sever legal and administrative ties with the West Bank? That step has long been seen to have, perhaps irreversibly, removed Jordan from the table of any serious negotiations for a final resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based in a “land for peace” formula.'Murad argues:
“I believe that it can be credibly argued that it was a strategic mistake to focus Arab and Palestinian effort solely on creating an alternate and less legally legitimate claimant to the West Bank, regardless of how nationalistic and symbolic it was to have a Palestinian body representing Palestinian rights, instead of focusing on claiming the land itself as the most pressing priority – even if only for purely tactical considerations."Murad then concludes:
“.. it appears that the decision to squeeze Jordan out and undermine the legal opportunity that Jordan had to reclaim the West Bank back in the 1970s, is a relevant and important starting point in our review of our past strategies and a critical ingredient in our discussions of a way forward towards a solution.”Jordan’s long-abandoned West Bank claims could be resurrected following the PLO committing political suicide by refusing to have anything further to do with President Trump’s soon-to-be-released “ultimate deal”.
Trump’s deal will be still-born if no Arab negotiating partner is prepared to sit down with Israel.
In 1988 the PLO could justifiably claim to be the sole spokesman for the Gazan and West Bank Arab populations. Hamas – founded only in 1987 – never represented any challenge to the PLO then. However in 2018 the PLO sole-spokesman claim has been completely undermined by Hamas – which itself has governed Gaza with disastrous results since 2007.
Both organisations continue to fail to reconcile their differences, engage in on-going internecine conflict and refuse to give their long-suffering populations any say in their own future.
Jordan appears to be readying itself to jump on the Trump bandwagon – leaving the PLO and Hamas behind battering themselves into political irrelevance.
(Author’s note: The cartoon – commissioned exclusively for this article – is by Yaakov Kirschen aka "Dry Bones" – one of Israel's foremost political and social commentators – whose cartoons have graced the columns of Israeli and international media publications for decades.)