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What is Abbas cooking up with Jordan?

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas surprised us by flying to Amman and signing an agreement that stipulates that Jordan's King Abdullah is the protector of the holy sites in Jerusalem and has the right to take all necessary legal measures to preserve them, especially Al-Aqsa Mosque. It was a surprise because this was an agreement made behind closed doors. There was no announcement beforehand, nor was it discussed in what passes for parliaments in the two countries.


In fact, the only thing that Abbas said was that the agreement is a commitment to what is already held to be true. If so, then why was the "historic agreement" only signed now, after Netanyahu's secret visit to Amman and a public visit from US President Barack Obama?

This agreement surely was not made on the spur of the moment; it is almost certain that there were legal and political committees working hard on preparing the text over the past few weeks, or even months, in full secrecy. However, why the secrecy? Why not be transparent and honest with the Palestinian and Jordanian people, especially over such a serious matter?

I'm not protesting against the Hashemite Kingdom's defence of the holy sites, or against the Jordanian monarch's right to take legal measures to protect them. What is at issue here is the fact that President Abbas, whose term of office expired more than 3 years ago, has taken it upon himself to sign an agreement on behalf of the Palestinians without any consultation of discussions with any legal Palestinian organisations or those struggling to regain the homeland, such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular and Democratic Fronts for the Liberation of Palestine.

If Abbas is capable of making such a move, then he is equally as capable of surprising us all again by signing agreements with Israel in which he makes serious concessions over Palestinian rights. What makes me uneasy about all of this is that the so-called "peace" negotiations will resume soon and there is talk behind the scenes in Washington, Ramallah and occupied Jerusalem that new US Secretary of State John Kerry will be bringing a new raft of ideas on his next visit to the region.

The agreement signed by Abbas and Abdullah raises a number of contentious issues which have stunned many in both countries:

  • Mahmoud Abbas's apparent increasing weakness and desire to export the crisis to Jordan and its king.
  • This agreement could be interpreted an important preliminary step towards a confederation between the West Bank and Jordan, justified by Palestine becoming a state on paper at the UN General Assembly three months ago.
  • The existence of an American-Israeli-European inclination to limit the issue of occupied Jerusalem to the holy sites, especially Al-Aqsa Mosque, so that sovereignty of the rest of the occupied city can be relinquished under Israel's "inclusion" law.

Although there is no information about what is being cooked up by these Arab, Israeli and American "chefs", we are entitled to consider conspiracy theories given the propensity of Washington to fabricate "reasons" for the invasion of Iraq and for Europe, particularly the French, to make up motives for NATO to get involved in Libya. Why shouldn't the same sort of conspiracy occur with Palestine, especially since one of the main fabricators of the lies behind the Iraq invasion, Tony Blair, is the "Peace Envoy" in the Middle East?

If there are intentions to establish a confederation between Jordan and Palestine, this could be a good thing provided that Palestine is liberated first and a Palestinian state with absolute sovereignty is established on the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem. Only then, and this is a key factor, should the proposal for confederation be put to the people of both Palestine and Jordan in an open and transparent referendum.

President Abbas has not been given the authority by the Palestinian people to sign agreements on their behalf without their consent or the consent of their representative organisations. Moreover, he has not been given any authority to start new negotiations with the Israelis. He needs the consent of the people and their organisations, starting with the Palestinian National Council and the participation of all political parties and elected representatives across Palestinian society. Their silence in this is surprising, particularly Hamas; are we to take it as tacit acceptance?

The Palestinian people are one nation and their cause is the responsibility of every Arab and Muslim. Liberating their holy sites from Israel's occupation and Judaisation is also our duty, not least because Al-Aqsa is under daily threat and its restoration to the care of the Arabs and Muslims does not require any "historical agreements" signed in Amman. We must first liberate the land and its religious sites, and then no one will contest the Hashemites' protection of it.

Our serious weakness and possible downfall is in having a Palestinian Authority which does not want to make a serious move to put pressure on the Israelis and which, at the same time, prevents the Palestinian people from doing so. Indeed, the PA vows to stop a third intifada which would make the Israeli occupation and oppression an international priority once more.

President Abbas should not be directing his actions to the east of Ramallah, but to the west in order to put an end to the occupation, and make it a costly exercise for the occupiers in the interim. We are in the era of the Arab Spring and the revolutions against dictators who oppress their people and make unilateral decisions without regard for their opinions. Abbas would do well to understand this.

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

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