x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Jordan has the jitters over Palestinian state proposal

A proposal in the Knesset that Jordan serves as a Palestinian state raises fears in the country.

A woman on a hillside above al-Jabal al-Shamali, a neighbourhood in Jordan in which Palestinians became a majority in 1990.
A woman on a hillside above al-Jabal al-Shamali, a neighbourhood in Jordan in which Palestinians became a majority in 1990.

AMMAN // When Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, described a Right-wing parliamentarian's proposal that Jordan serve as a Palestinian state as "baseless hallucination", it did little to quell concern here. The proposal by Arieh Eldad, a member of the Knesset, last week sent a shudder through political circles and sparked calls for Jordan to abrogate its 1994 peace treaty with Israel.

Mr Eldad, who is a member of the far-Right National Union party, had said that because Jordan grants citizenship to Palestinian refugees, it should serve as an alternative Palestinian state, in essence excusing Israel from giving the right of return to millions of Palestinians who fled or were forced out over the past six decades, or to implement the two state solution. The suggestion itself, known as the alternative homeland, is not new. It has long been floated by Israel's Right-wingers, much to the displeasure of Jordan. But what Jordanians were more concerned about was that it was discussed for the first time in the Knesset, a sign that the alternative home idea is receiving a measure of credibility.

Israel's foreign ministry sought to distance itself from the proposal, saying the views did not reflect those of the current government, and Mr Peres, whose post is largely ceremonial, described it as unfounded. But Jordan wants the Netanyahu government to clarify officially its position regarding Mr Eldad's proposal. "The Jordanian diplomacy will be committing a grave mistake if it considers Peres's statement as enough ? Because Peres is a trader of words. His mission is to lie and mislead international public opinion each time people open their eyes to Israel's new crimes," Taher al Edwan, editor-in-chief of Arab Alyam, an independent newspaper, wrote on Sunday. "But with time, the hallucinations become a case for discussion and to draft into laws."

While it is unlikely the proposal will pass into law, its discussion in parliament cannot be ignored by Jordanians. As long as Israel continues to reject the two-state solution, a resolution that has the support of Arab states, the US administration and the international community, it poses a threat to the sovereignty of Jordan, where 50 per cent of its population are of Palestinian origin. Such a move would render Jordanians from the eastern bank of the Jordan River a minority in the kingdom.

"Although the views are those of the Right-wing extremist parties, still they will only further shake confidence of the peace camp and among those who support the peace treaty and believe that it will protect Jordan," said Oraib al Rantawi, director of Al Quds Centre for Political Studies, an independent think tank based in Amman. "What is dangerous is that these political parties that call for this proposal give the Israeli government an exit out of its strained policies. Netanyahu rejects a Palestinian state and one state where Israelis and Arabs have equal rights, so the only solution left is to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict outside Palestine," he said.

"Our experiments with Israel taught us that what is now a minor political current, after a short while might turn into a major one. And what represents the views of the minority in Israel will represent the majority particularly with a lack of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." smaayeh@thenational.ae