Sunday, June 10, 2007
The "Confederation for Peace" formula
70 prominent Palestinian professors, business leaders, and members of the legislative councils were invited last month to attend a meeting at the port of Aqaba, Jordan. The meeting was initiated by Ex-prime minister Dr. Majali; the main man behind the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty, to discuss the dead peace process in the region and the future political relationship between the upcoming Palestinian state and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The timing of this invitation was very interesting since it was almost 40 years ago that the West Bank and East Jerusalem, fell out of Jordanian hands into Israeli control in the course of the Six-Day War. Surprisingly the idea of a potential confederation between the West Bank and Jordan surfaced again when many members of the Palestinian delegation raised it with the King.
Call it “Karma” or whatever but the idea of the West Bank rejoining the Hashemite Kingdom to form some kind of confederation will reshape the geopolitics of the region to look almost exactly like the pre 1967 era:the West Bank under Jordanian control and the Gaza Strip under Egyptian stewardship. Moreover, it makes the words of the song “War what is it good for?” to be true and prophetic.
Interestingly, the idea of forming some kind of federation or confederation is gaining traction on both sides of the Jordan River. Even hotheaded Netanyahu who stalled the peace process for over three years when his Likud party gained power in the Mid nineties and who is currently the most popular politician in Israel is excited about it. “Some kind of federation or confederation between Jordan and the Palestinians would enhance peace prospects in the region,” Netanyahu said in an interview with the Financial Times last month.
So is the so called “federation/confederation” a viable and doable option? May be is the answer. Some Jordanians are concerned about the kingdom’s stability, which after generations of being flooded with Palestinian refugees is now hosting up to a million Iraqi refugees. Khalaf, a Jordanian blogger warned against any attempt to replace the Israeli tanks by Jordanian ones to enforce order in the Palestinian cities and suggested that this confederation to happen between the concerned parties:Israelis and Palestinians since they share the same land. Khalaf was referring to a one-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, many Jordanians point out that while Jordan has ancestral ties to the West Bank, a more distant and violent Gaza looks ungovernable. On the Palestinian side, and to add logistical skepticism to the idea, ones might wonder if Hamas who has a troublesome relationship with the Kingdom might be interested in such kind of an arrangement.
Till now the official Jordanian position is that no Jordanian-Palestinian confederation will be established before there is an independent Palestinian state. However and as everybody knows in the Middle East: nobody says what he means and nobody means what he says. When the king himself was asked about this old new/old idea, he clearly indicated that it is premature to talk about confederation at this point of time, however some people think that things might change if the US and EU gave up on the direct negotiation between the Israelis and the Palestinians and endorse this option.
Apart from the practicality of this idea, the main question remains for most Jordanians to be simple and made of two words: why now? The previous marriage between the two people ended up in a divorce when the latest King Hussein of Jordan decided to disengage from the unity with the West Bank in 1988 even though the Palestinians along with all Arab nations under PLO pressure wanted to break up with the Kingdom since 1974. So it is very interesting that the remarriage proposal to come from the Palestinian side this time.
For me, it seems that Palestinians’ sudden interest in the confederation option is related to the economic and political benefits that they may gain by joining the Kingdom. The question is: what happens if those benefits do not last. What happens if the international community fails as usual to deliver the expected aid to help this new confederation? Are the newly remarried parties willing to stand by each other in sickness or health, for better or worse till God sets them apart. What do I know, I am neither a minister nor a marriage counselor but an old couple once told me that “getting married is not about choosing the right person, it is about being the right one.”