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Jordan's fear of a confederation tsunami after the settlement in Syria

February 15, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was understandably eager to swiftly and privately sign the famous Jerusalem agreement, over a month ago, which gave the Jordanian monarch religious authority over the holy sites in Jerusalem.

Abbas’s keenness for secrecy reached the point that his office’s staff had no knowledge of the swift visit he was making to Amman by helicopter, sent to him from Jordan.

The delegation accompanying Abbas during this visit, the results of which caused controversy, was limited to Palestinian Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs, Mahmoud Al-Habash, and Abbas’s personal security.

Therefore, Abbas was stunned to find dozens of journalists and presenters waiting to report the news when he arrived in Amman, and expressed his surprise until it became clear that Amman had reasons for securing the coverage.

The element of surprise in the matter, and the failure to provide any explanations prior to the signing of the agreement, drove many analyst circles to link the agreement – which gives Jordan full responsibility for the religious sites – to a confederation project which Abbas charged a bilateral delegation with studying and developing scenarios for.

According to a western diplomatic source who spoke to Al-Quds Al-Arabi, both the Palestinian President and Jordanian Monarch fear Israeli-American pressure on them at the last minute, which required them to develop an outline of potential intellectual and political scenarios, studying the future of the Jordanian-Palestinian relationship and determining the possibilities and assumptions.

There are several indications of these mutual fears, most notably the Jordanian position that has emerged on the side-lines of King Abdullah II’s recent visit to Moscow, where Amman addressed the Russian President Vladimir Putin and expressed their hope for his support of the peace process in the Middle East.

Many have tried to decode Jordan’s request from the other side of the world, which seems strange coming from one of Washington’s most important allies.

According to some observers, the likely explanation for this is the existence of concerns on Amman’s part, which required the help of Russia. These concerns are most likely related to the peace process and the possibilities of scenarios being imposed on Jordanians and Palestinians.

After the Moscow incident, the U.S. President Barack Obama visited the area and stopped in Amman and Tel Aviv. Foreign Minister John Kerry was then freed up for the parties and began to pave the way to launch a comprehensive negotiation process, the secrets of which were not yet known or determined.

Meanwhile, the Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour implied, while speaking on the margins of a banquet hosted by a Member of Parliament Dr. Hazem Qashou, that Obama and the Americans’ desire for the negotiation process between Israel and Palestine is that it should occur as far away as possible from the media and through diplomatic channels and confidentiality.

Ensour did not say, on the same occasion, that this American eagerness to keep the peace process under wraps raises Amman’s suspicions, suggesting that something is being plotted.

Therefore it is said within the Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh’s circle that Jordan should be ready… but for what exactly? No one actually knows.

There are Jordanian decision-makers who say that the development of personal and national scenarios is useful at this stage in the hope of contributing to the creation of occurrences rather than surrendering to any scenario coming from Washington or Tel Aviv.

This theory is probably what pushes the Jordanian authorities to interact behind the scenes with detailed dialogue about the awaited confederation carried out by two political groups, both of which have received the green light from Ramallah and Amman. The first is led by Palestinian businessman Munib al-Masri, on behalf of the Palestinians, and the second is led by the star of the Wadi Araba Peace Treaty, Dr. Abdelsalam al-Majali, on behalf of the Jordanians.

The information received by Al-Quds Al-Arabi from the two groups indicates they have achieved a fully-detailed written document, which has been presented to the people and leaderships of both countries, containing several details on the proposed social, political, and legislative structure for the establishment of a model for the relationship between Jordan and a developing Palestinian state that can be nationally marketed.

All data before this indicated that the Jordanian monarch did not want to be involved in any project related to the Palestinian issue and West Bank.

It also indicates that until this moment, Amman was wary of imposing a specific agenda on the Palestinian issue immediately after the launch of the final settlement that appears to be approaching for the Syrian portfolio.

However, matters seem to be changing now. Amman was enthusiastic about the Jerusalem agreement and has started to engage in the details and particular scenarios. The meeting scheduled in the next couple of hours between King Abdullah II and Obama is supposed to determine the extent, form, and level of the Jordanian role.

In return, the Jordanians are increasingly convinced that a sudden and immediate settlement of the Palestinian issue may be on the horizon once an agreement is reached between Russia and Washington over what some observers call the major settlement in Syria.

As for the Ramallah front, Abbas seems prepared to take a large leap towards arranging future of relations with Jordan on the side-lines of a comprehensive negotiation process.

On its part, Amman is slowly and cautiously heading towards the process and, according to one of the ministers, fears the tsunami of the confederation project if the parties sit at the comprehensive settlement table in Syria.