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Kerry's Jordanian approach

January 24, 2014 at 2:28 am

Some sources have mentioned US Secretary of State John Kerry’s new approach to his peace-making task, noting that Jordan plays a vital role in solving the “complications” of the Jordan Valley. America and Israel have symbolic roles. I do not know if this formula was proposed officially by the Americans or if it is still up for discussion, nor do I know whether this formula would be acceptable to the parties involved. However, the matter is thought-provoking not only with respect to the positions of such parties regarding this idea, but also about the possible implications it has for Jordan and Palestine.

I will begin with the Israeli position that it may agree to give up its control of the Jordan Valley, although that is doubtful. It is more likely that the Israeli government will not mind the deployment of Jordanian forces west of the river, as long as these forces are also deployed east of the river, in Jordan, and as long as they protect Jordan’s security obligations dictated by national sovereignty and the terms of its peace treaty with Israel.

As for the Palestinians, there will be a dispute amongst the various factions on the matter. Moreover, accusations varying in their degree of severity will be made against the Palestinian Authority, and perhaps against Jordan. However, the “mainstream” PA will go along with this measure in an attempt to reduce the extent of Israel’s current presence, as long as the idea of “zero Israelis” in Jordan Valley is not implemented. Hamas is facing difficult challenges from the Israelis and Egyptians in Gaza; it will not, I believe, instigate a crisis with Jordan, although it will try to employ an “incomplete” agreement with Israel in its conflict with Fatah, the PA and the PLO. It is likely that statements from these parties will be issued expressing their appreciation of the Jordanian position and stressing the ties of brotherhood that link the two countries together.

Regarding the Jordanians, such a measure will revive the national debate on several hot topics, including, but not limited to, the extent to which Jordan is allowed to intervene in “internal Palestinian affairs”. The future of Jordanian-Palestinian relations in terms of their possible future external nature (such as a federation, confederation, a “Jordanian option”, etc.); the future of those relations in terms of internal aspects (such as identity, citizenship, integration, resettlement, an alternative homeland); and other issues of concern to the Jordanian political elites, are all up for discussion.

On an official level, some voices may not take kindly to such an option, but the main authority in Jordan will go along with it, especially if “good terms” are provided for a broader agreement. On a societal level, there will be conflict amongst the political and social elites, and there will be loud voices rejecting the “involvement” of Jordan for different reasons, some of which are related to the total rejection of the settlement process. Some will view the solution as a way out for Israel and say that it detracts from the rights of Jordan and Palestine both, while for others the issues of identity and sovereignty will trump any other consideration, all of which lead to the same result.

However, in any case, the extent of acceptance or rejection of John Kerry’s new approach will be determined in the light of the nature of the comprehensive agreement he will present to the different parties, especially to the Palestinians and Jordanians. I believe that there are two incomplete scenarios for this: first, Kerry will go as far as adopting the Palestinian demand for a state with Jerusalem as its capital, with all the known terms, limitations and concessions; we may call this the best of the worst-case scenarios. Secondly, Kerry could go as far as adopting Israel’s security demands and will propose that the PA, with direct intervention on Jordan’s part, play the role of security guard for Israel’s benefit and interests.

Jordan’s involvement in the proposed arrangements for the final agreement may improve the terms for the Palestinians to regain some of their rights. On the other hand, it will lead to the relinquishment of some of the rights of the other parties involved in this solution, including Jordan, which may cause it a lot of trouble in the long run, outweighing some of the short-term “gains” it may achieve.

As for the trouble, it may include the expansion of the opposition to the Amman government’s policies and positions, leading to the bringing together of parties that, in normal circumstances, would not be connected. In terms of the gains, there is no doubt that such an agreement would provide a political umbrella along with financial and economic ease for Jordan, helping it to avoid chaos in a region likely to remain turbulent for many years to come.

What we are heading for or what awaits us at the crossroads is both very important and very dangerous; it requires careful thought about all possible scenarios as well as the widest possible involvement of Jordanians in the decision-making process. Will we be able to do it?

This is a translation of the Arabic text which appeared in Ad Dustour newspaper on 6 January 2014

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.