The talk in Jordanian political and media circles about a Jordan-Palestine confederation goes beyond the limits of Amman's official rejection of the idea to take such a step before the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and its recognition internationally. This position may be summed up by the question raised by King Abdullah II in a meeting with politicians: who is the confederation to be with?
According to the understanding of Jordanian politicians, what is required of Jordan is to provide cover for the liquidation of the Palestinian cause led by the Trump administration. It has already shown its intention by declaring Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel, stripping Palestinian refugees of their refugee status and shutting down the PLO office in Washington. In other words, it is engaged in a process of completely obliterating Palestinian identity, symbols and the final status issues.
As such, a proposed confederation is a fanciful name for the takeover of the management of the Palestinian communities in the West Bank, whose land has been turned into a series of "cantons" with no sovereignty thanks to the proliferation of illegal Israeli settlements and settlers across the occupied territory.
If we look beyond Jordan's very clear official position, we find that the political elites believe that there is a US and Israeli agenda to end the Palestinian cause. There is also a firm conviction amongst the right wing in America and Israel that Jordan is the only logical solution to the Palestinian issue and can be an alternative to the concept of the Palestinian State, through a confederation formula. For Jordanians and Palestinians alike this can only mean one thing: the so-called alternative homeland.
Politically and logically, nobody can force the Jordanians and Palestinians to adopt such a formula, even under pressure from Washington and Tel Aviv, not least because public opinion in both Jordan and occupied Palestine is against it. However, there is a real fear that different pressure and the use of twisted back channels will be used to push through the scenario, or at least pave the way for its implementation.
These concerns also reflect a fundamental shift in the US-Israeli position towards Jordan in terms of strategic vision for the Kingdom's role, its geo-strategic location and its political importance. Thus, the analysis of political elites in Amman now links the stifling economic crisis to an agenda to compel Jordan to make concessions. These may not be direct and immediate in relation to the above scenario, but they will at least force Jordan not to stand firmly against the pressure on the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas, who appears to be standing alone, apart from Jordanian support, thanks to the Arab strategic vacuum and ambiguous official positions.
The most dangerous thing, as whispered in Amman, is that this agenda extends to an attempt to manipulate Jordan's own political stability; an economic and financial crisis has inevitable social and political repercussions. Moreover, given the government's desperate attempts to pass a new income tax law under pressure from the International Monetary Fund, there are fears of an economic and financial collapse if Jordan fails to pay its huge debts due early next year.
These are dangerous times for Jordan, both domestically and externally, given that foreign aid has been cut and the emphases of the IMF are dominating Amman. This sits heavily over the leaks about a confederation, which is being described as a means to escape from the current difficulties.
Nevertheless, even if we were to assume the existence of a dangerous agenda, not only to force through a confederation, but also to manipulate Jordan's stability, the barrier remains the lack of public support for such a plan in Jordan and Palestine. The Palestinians know that it would mean the end to the dream of an independent state.
The alternative for the government in Jordan is to restore the status of public opinion, with popular involvement and partnership in the decision-making process. This is what the late King Hussein did in 1989, to bypass a dangerous turn towards which Jordan was heading. This is the only response possible for any agenda which aims to destabilise the Kingdom today.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 17 September 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.