Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Not At Jordan's Expense

By Hassan A. Barari  
This commentary was published in The Jordan Times 

I only state the obvious when I say that Jordan has little faith in the sincerity of the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas.

Few have forgotten when Abbas led the Palestinians at a back-channel negotiation with the Israelis while keeping Jordan in the dark. The Kingdom, which provided the Palestinians an umbrella in a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation to the Madrid peace conference, was not informed that the Palestinians were having clandestine negotiations with Israel.

A week ago, the Palestinian main factions (Fateh and Hamas) signed a reconciliation pact in Cairo. Again, Jordan was neither involved in the Palestinians’ affairs nor consulted on any key issue. This attitude indicates that the PA president could not be trusted in years ahead.

Against this backdrop, one could understand the warning coming from the prime minister, who emphasised that Jordan will not support any two-state solution. Meaning, a two-state solution that compromises Jordan’s interests in the final status negotiations would not be welcome by Amman.

Jordan, according to this logic, should do what it takes to prevent any future two-state solution if this would undermine its interests.

The prime minister’s statement did not come out of the blue. Three or four years ago, some Jordanian strategists - such as the former head of the General Intelligence Department, General Mohammed Dahabi - made the case that Jordan should be alert with regard to the essence of a two-state solution. Not only did Dahabi seek to expose the fallacy of a two-state solution as understood by the Israelis, he also sought to create a margin of manoeuvrability in Jordan’s foreign policy, in an attempt to diversify Jordan’s political options.

Two years ago, the current prime minister was among those who warned against a scenario whereby the PA negotiate with Israelis at the expense of Jordan. Marouf Bakhit argued that Jordan should have a representative at any Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations.

The leak about Israeli-Palestinian negotiations vindicates both Bakhit and Dahabi. In other words, the PA is untrustworthy.

Abbas does not feel that he needs to coordinate with Amman. Jordan has fully supported him and agreed to boycott Hamas to strengthen his status. Abbas clearly understands that he can extract few concessions from the Israelis and thus Jordan is somewhat the scapegoat. He seems to take Amman for granted.

How can it be, many Jordanians ask, that Abbas is still having this attitude towards Jordan? And what are Jordan’s options in case Abbas declares unilaterally a state without even addressing the final-status issues in which Jordan has a vested interest?

These two questions need to be debated by Jordanians at all levels. Given the gravity of the situation, Jordan may be in need to form another committee of experts to thoroughly think through options to protect the country’s interests in the face of this Palestinian insensitivity.

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