Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Jordan not the solution

Notion of Jordanian-Palestinian confederation is not a viable prospect
Shlomo Brom

According to some observers, the phoenix of Jordanian-Palestinian confederation seems to have risen from the ashes. Discussion of this issue has been revived following the crisis in the Palestinian Authority, which peaked with the violent takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas.

That crisis has deepened the Israeli-Palestinian impasse because it manifested the Palestinians’ inability to advance toward a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and aroused some nostalgia for the days before the Palestinian national movement moved to center-stage, when the fate of the Palestinians was determined by Arab states, especially Egypt and Jordan.

At first, the feeling took the form of proposals, especially by Israelis, that Egypt and Jordan send forces to restore order in Gaza and the West Bank and create the conditions for political progress. More recently, it has been expressed in the idea of confederation.

The idea of confederation was first raised in 1972 and resurfaced several times in the years since King Hussein decided in 1988 to sever links with the West Bank and recognize the PLO as the body responsible for the population there. The Jordanians never rejected the idea outright but did always stress that confederation can come about only if the Palestinians want it and that it can therefore be discussed only after an independent Palestinian state has come into being. Now, however, confederation is being considered from the outset as an alternative to a Palestinian state.

This version of the idea appears to have gathered momentum because of the conjuncture of two developments stemming from the Palestinian crisis. One is growing Jordanian concern at the possibility that the crisis will spill over into Jordan, in the form of a stream of Palestinian refugees. Those refugees would join the huge number of refugees from Iraq entering Jordan in recent years. They are already placing a strain on Jordanian infrastructure, but they do not constitute a truly heavy burden because Jordan has taken pains to allow only Sunnis with means to enter.

From the regime’s point of view, Palestinian refugees would be a more serious problem because they would lack their own resources and would threaten to upset the delicate demographic balance between East Bank Jordanians and those of Palestinian origin.

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