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Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank have an international impact

By Omar Radwan

Israel's military order allowing the expulsion of potentially hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank has serious implications for its neighbour Jordan. The order, which has already come into effect, states that any person in the West Bank without what Israel considers valid documentation will be classified as an infiltrator and may be deported from the West Bank or imprisoned. Although it is ambiguous about what the necessary documentation is, observers believe that the order will target Palestinian residents of the West Bank originally from the Gaza Strip – whose identification cards show addresses in Gaza – and their children; Palestinians from Jerusalem and from within Israel's 1948 boundaries resident in the West Bank; and foreigners resident in the West Bank. This last category includes, for example, activists from the International Solidarity Movement who Israel is eager to be rid of, as well as Palestinians holding Jordanian and other passports currently resident in the West Bank, who will now be expelled from their own country as "illegal aliens". This will result in the break-up of many Palestinian families, since most of these Palestinians came to the West Bank to marry West Bank residents. Human rights groups warn that tens of thousands of Palestinians could be affected and thus expelled from the West Bank, and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has said that the order could lead to the emptying of large areas of the West Bank of its Palestinian inhabitants. He's quite right in that respect; the order is in fact so ambiguous that any Palestinian in the West Bank is potentially a target for expulsion.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has throughout its existence been a haven for Palestinians expelled by Israel. Most of Jordan's population consists of Palestinians made refugees by Israel in the 1948 war and their descendants. In 1967, they were joined by over 200,000 people fleeing after the Israelis occupied the West Bank. Like those expelled in 1948, these people have not been allowed to return to their homes. The presence of such a large Palestinian refugee population (as well as a large Iraqi refugee population) has led inevitably to a strain on the resources of the Jordanian state and society. A new influx of refugees could lead to a great upheaval the like of which Jordan would not be able to tolerate or cope with.

After the signing of the 1994 Wadi Araba peace treaty, Jordan established cordial relations with Israel. There has been significant economic and security cooperation between the two states (both overt and covert) and Arab observers used to contrast the "warm peace" between Israel and Jordan with the "cold peace" between Israel and Egypt. Recently, however, relations between the two states have taken a nosedive. The peace treaty between Jordan and Israel recognises Jordan's historic role as a protector of the Muslim holy places in Jerusalem but Israel is engaging in a systematic attack on these sites. Israeli soldiers have stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque on more than one occasion and Israel's opening of a synagogue in the vicinity of the mosque last month triggered riots in Jerusalem which spread to the whole of the West Bank. Jewish extremists have been stepping up their campaign to destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Aqsa sanctuary, and build the "Temple of Solomon" in their place; their actions have tacit support within the Israeli government. Led by Benjamin Netanyahu, the government is also engaged in an aggressive (albeit illegal) campaign of evictions and settlement building designed to turn Jerusalem into a city for Jews only. In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal King Abdullah II of Jordan urged US President Obama to put more pressure on Netanyahu to cease these activities. Abdullah also said that economic exchanges between his country and Israel had virtually dried up because of Netanyahu's policies. Arab observers are today saying that Jordan and Israel are now practically enemies.

King Abdullah spoke to the Wall Street Journal before the Israeli military order became effective. Relations between Jordan and Israel are now bound to become even worse, because the new policy represents an existential threat to Jordan. The extreme right-wing in Israel (referred to in Jordan as the "madmen of Tel Aviv") and represented in the Israeli government by the Yisrael Beitenu party of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, has always opposed the creation of a Palestinian state on any part of historic Palestine. Instead, right-wing demagogues advocate turning Jordan, with its Palestinian majority, into a Palestinian state. In most variants, this involves the "transfer" (a euphemism for ethnic cleansing) of all the Palestinians in the West Bank to Jordan. The new Israeli military order could very well be designed to make this ethnic cleansing a reality, "finishing off" what was started in 1948.

The Arabic newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi has reported that top Jordanian government and security officials have held secret meetings to prepare for this worst-case scenario, after news of the military order became public. It appears that no option has been ruled out, and Jordan is prepared to enter into a military confrontation with Israel in order to stop any possible implementation of the "transfer" plan by the current Israeli government. This has taken place despite assurances to Jordan by the Israeli government that there will be no mass expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank, which Jordan is rightly treating as worthless. Moreover, it is very doubtful that Jordan has the resources to deal with the transfer threat alone, should it come to pass. An emergency meeting of the Arab League has taken place in Cairo over the issue but the League is now little more than a talking shop, and its decisions carry little weight.

It appears that nothing will stop the "madmen of Tel Aviv" from pursuing their goal of an ethnically-cleansed Jewish state on the whole of historic Palestine, in accordance with the Zionist myth "a land without a people for a people without a land". They have no qualms about bringing chaos to the Middle East in order to achieve this and are ready to provoke an armed conflict with the Arab state which has been the most friendly and accommodating to them. Turning Jordan into a Palestinian state will involve dislocation and destruction that could spread to the whole of the Middle East. An objective observer would conclude that it is not in Israel's interest because such a state would likely be extremely hostile to Israel and probably friendly to its adversaries (such as Iran). However, the whole Zionist project that created Israel in the first place has been about ethnically cleansing the Palestinians from their land, and these latest developments are simply the continuation of this policy.

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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