A plan proposed by Ali Shihabi, a Saudi author and commentator on Middle Eastern Politics, proposing the merger of Jordan, Gaza and part of the West Bank into one single territorial entity to be called "The Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine" - has received little attention in the Israeli media or been commented on by Israeli politicians since its release on 8 June.
Yet the plan contains the following features which should excite Israel's reluctant media to be seeking responses from its political leaders:
- It would supersede two previous Saudi peace proposals in 1981 and 2002 calling for Israel to withdraw completely from the West Bank
- The two-state solution - the creation of a separate Palestinian Arab State between Jordan and Israel promoted unsuccessfully by the United Nations for the last 29 years - is consigned to the diplomatic graveyard
- Amman, not Jerusalem, will be the capital of The Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine
- The right of return to Israel is abandoned.
- Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and stateless refugees get full citizenship in the merged Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine with all the elements of sovereignty applicable to those Territories that belonging to a fully recognized state in the UN entail.
I reached out to the author Ali Shihabi who kindly gave me the following interview:
What was your idea behind this paper?
I see a failure of Israeli imagination in looking for a solution to the Palestine tragedy. This combined with a lack of realism dominating Palestinian thinking has provided multiple opportunities for political entrepreneurs like the Iranians to use and misuse the cause. Israelis want to perpetuate this inertia by kicking the can continuously down the road while looking for every excuse to do nothing substantive to solve this problem. Israel sees time to be on its side (and so far it has been proven right) but fundamentals like 7 million Arabs living between the river and the sea are a time bomb that eventually will blow up in their face one way or another
We have seen from recent experience that state building is a virtually impossible task, particularly in a polarized environment so creating a "Palestinian State" from scratch is a fool's errand. At the same time Jordan is a decently run country by regional standards and hence its government infrastructure can be used to incorporate Palestine which will instantly have a globally recognized and respected government with all the basics like security, government bureaucracy etc.
But many Jordanians don't want anything to do with this?
Yes, a false separate "Jordanian" identity has developed over the last decades from what is really a people with zero differences, ethnic or religious that have been one people since time immemorial so that is a problem. That difference has been pushed by some Jordanian elites in a quest to perpetuate their dominance. This formula however does not eliminate Jordanian elites and preserves the monarchy and all its institutions and makes Jordan/Palestine a much more viable and strategically important state with a substantial footprint on the Mediterranean and a state critically important for regional stability, so it is really in their long-term interest. In any event if a consensus among the powers that be decides on this formula Jordanian elites can be convinced. They are a minor obstacle once you separate the noise from the substance.
Well, many Palestinians don't want it also it seems
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