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The current round of talks leads inevitably to… the Jordanian option

Israel/Palestine
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Kerry meeting at the State Department last month with Nasser Judeh, Foreign Minister of Jordan

Kerry meeting at the State Department last month with Nasser Judeh, Foreign Minister of Jordan

This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

The interfaith dialogue on Israel/Palestine, I took part in last week in Vienna was stilted.  Though the audience turnout was good and the day conference preceding the evening panel was serviceable, I felt we had returned to the 1980s.  The photos of the event show how bored I was.  Nothing remotely relevant to the dire situation in the (un)Holy Land was offered.

My contribution to the conference was set in motion the day before when I visited Viola Raheb, a Palestinian theologian in her own right and the sister of Mitri Raheb, a pastor with a politically conscious ministry in Bethlehem, Palestine.  Indeed, my discussion with Viola was earthshaking.  She shared her thoughts about Palestinian land, life and leadership during the last few years.  We then discussed the return of the Jordanian option as the almost inevitable end to the current peace negotiations.

By Jordanian option, I mean an agreement signed by the Palestinian Authority, Israel and Jordan – with the United States as the guarantor – that effectively gives Jordan governing authority over the West Bank and certain religious sites in Jerusalem.  Palestinians will be granted autonomy in the West Bank.  Alongside Israel, Jordan’s military will patrol the (highly militarized) demilitarized borders of this newly configured entity.  Meanwhile the major Israeli settlements remain intact under Israeli governmental and military control.  In return, Palestinians gain some land in the Negev.  There might be some symbolic space for Palestine and Jordan in East Jerusalem. Abu Dis becomes Palestinian Jerusalem with or without the Jerusalem nameplate.

However such an end to the Israel-Palestinian conflict is referred to – call it realistic politics or unconditional surrender – the result remains:  Israel conquers Palestine – permanently.  It erases any claims that Palestinians have within Israel/Palestine.  BDS calls are eviscerated, including the recent European Union attempt to separate Israel from its further colonial expansion through trade and intellectual cooperation restrictions.

Palestine is effectively removed from the world justice agenda.  The international legal arena suffers the same fate.

Is anyone listening?

The possibility of such a signing hit me hard.  I could hardly catch my breath.  On the day I left Vienna, I was informed by Mustafa Abu Sway, a well-connected Palestinian Muslim academic and a fellow interfaith dialogue panel member, that President Abbas had agreed to speak to the Israeli Knesset and that his appearance might be imminent.

Abbas in Jerusalem would be akin to Anwar Sadat’s visit after the October 1973 war but with a twist. Sadat came to Jerusalem with the claim of a military stalemate with Israel and a symbolic triumph that was significant for Egyptian pride. No matter the rhetoric, Abbas comes to Jerusalem hat in hand. Palestine continues to disappear under his leadership. One of the few claims Abbas can make is that he and others in the Palestinian Authority – a governing body that few in the world respect – have survived.

I asked Viola what she as a Palestinian would want me as a Jew to speak or write about this. If, in fact, the Palestinian Authority was willing to cede Palestine and the permanent ghettoization of her people for paved roads and improved employment, what did she think a Jew like me ought to be thinking.

I was serious. After all, though I have struggled within the prophetic tradition of my own people, for all practical purposes the Palestinian Authority signing on the dotted line means the end of the Jewish struggle.  The explosion of the Jewish prophetic over Palestine – which represents a final “no” to the ultimate assimilation of Jews to unjust power – loses its base of operation.

Still in exile, and deeper still, Jews of Conscience will be adrift. For generations to come the Jewish prophetic will lie dormant. It might never return.

If the world doesn’t think it will miss the prophetic in its distinctly Jewish embodiment the world isn’t isn’t thinking very deeply on the subject.

The people at the Vienna conference weren’t ready to think the end.  On all sides, including Palestinian intellectuals in the West, our investment in refusing the inevitable result – that the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem and the West Bank is permanent – is massive.  While criticizing the American, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators for their investment in the peace process, the Left, including Jews of Conscience, has a similar investment.

What happens after the permanent occupation is acknowledged and signed is the unasked question of all parties involved.

Jews of Conscience must begin to ask this question as if the final notice of (prophetic) foreclosure is already in the mail. It might arrive tomorrow.

Marc H. Ellis
About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His latest book is Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures.

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15 Responses

  1. MHughes976
    MHughes976
    November 26, 2013, 3:24 pm

    Is The Netanyahu government really.going to sigb an agreement.that defines Israel’s borders as falling short of David’s Kingdom?

  2. Sibiriak
    Sibiriak
    November 26, 2013, 6:30 pm

    By Jordanian option, I mean an agreement signed by the Palestinian Authority, Israel and Jordan – with the United States as the guarantor – that effectively gives Jordan governing authority over the West Bank and certain religious sites in Jerusalem. Palestinians will be granted autonomy in the West Bank. Alongside Israel, Jordan’s military will patrol the (highly militarized) demilitarized borders of this newly configured entity. Meanwhile the major Israeli settlements remain intact under Israeli governmental and military control.

    The “Jordanian Option” is more likely to involve a shrunken, shattered Palestinian “state” in a *confederation* with Jordan.

    Regarding the final consolidation of the Israeli land-grab and creation of a de facto Palestinian state, which already exists de jure, Jeff Halper writes:

    Israel could well annex area C, which is 60 per cent of the West Bank. Now, a couple of months ago the European Council diplomats in Jerusalem and Ramallah sent a report to the EU saying that Israel has forcibly expelled the Palestinians from area C. Forcible expulsion is hard language for European diplomats to use.

    […] So area C contains less than 5 per cent of the Palestinian population. In 1967 the Jordan valley contained about 250,000 people. Today it’s less than 50,000. So the Palestinians have either been driven out of the country, especially the middle class, or they have been driven to areas A and B. That’s where 96 or 97 per cent of them are.

    The Palestinian population has been brought down low enough, there is probably somewhere around 12,5000 Palestinians in area C, so Israel could annex area C and give them full citizenship.

    Basically, Israel can absorb 125,000 Palestinians without upsetting the demographic balance. And then, what is the world going to say? It’s not apartheid, Israel has given them full citizenship. So I think Israel feels it could get away with that.

    No one cares about what’s happening in areas A and B. If they want to declare a state, they can…

    In other words, we’re finished. Israel is now from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, the Palestinians have been confined in areas A and B or in small enclaves in East Jerusalem, and that’s it.

    Now the wrinkle is that I think they will do this with the agreement of the Palestinian Authority because Fayyad is a neoliberal.

    Fayyad is saying to Israel, we don’t need territory. If you give us economic space, to do business, and our business class can do okay and we can trickle down to our working classes, it’s good enough. So we don’t need Area C.

    As a matter of a fact what the European Counsel General said in its report is that the Palestinian Authority has given up Area C. Completely. When government or agencies come to the Palestinian Authority for investments, the PA tell them invest only in Area A and Area B. Do not invest in Area C. They’ve given up C.

    The idea is that Israel allows trade, to move freely between these Palestinian enclaves. I call it “viable apartheid”. I think Fayyad has developed a viable apartheid, saying that in the neoliberal world we need economic space, not territorial space. You let us move our goods freely into the Arab world, you give us an access to the Israeli market, and it’s fine. In other words, all the developments, like this new city Rawabi for upper-class

    Palestinians, are in the contours of Area A and B. They are now building a highway from Ramallah to Jericho; the Japanese are building it with the PA. Then either the Japanese or USAID will build from Ramallah to Bethlehem so greater Jerusalem, with E1, will be incorporated into Israel.

    I think you can get into a deal where Israel annexes Area C, it’s taken Jerusalem, they’ll give the Palestinians something symbolic like control of Haram Al Sharif/The Temple Mount, you can put up a capital in Abu Dis again. Basically, what I am saying is not only that they are they going to nail this down but they will do it with the agreement of the Palestinian Authority.

    At that point a confederation with Jordan becomes a possibility.

    See for example:

    “Are the Palestinians Ready to Share a State With Jordan?”
    Daoud Kuttab Dec 26 2012:

    …earlier this month, Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that Abbas informed several PLO leaders “to be prepared for a new confederation project with Jordan and other parties in the international community,” and that his office has already issued reports that evaluate “the best strategies to lead possible negotiations with Jordan” toward “reviving the confederation.”

    He has reportedly asked PLO officials to prepare themselves to pursue this strategy. This report, if confirmed by official sources, could be a watershed moment for the Palestinian national movement, and the highest profile endorsement of this persistent proposal.

    Abbas’s willingness to explore a Jordanian confederation comes on the heels of the United Nation’s recent declaration of Palestine as an observer state by a 138-9 vote. This clear victory for Abbas gives him the political capital to explore such a potentially controversial move — and also the international recognition of sovereignty that would allow Palestinians to enter into a confederation with Jordan as equal partners.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/12/are-the-palestinians-ready-to-share-a-state-with-jordan/266634/

    • Danaa
      Danaa
      November 26, 2013, 9:43 pm

      Sibriak, good highlights from the links.

      Alas, this is indeed what the so-called “peace talks’ are moving towards. An annexed Area C, all palestinians herderded into areas A and [some of] B (note that the settlers are encroaching on parts of Area B too). No jerusalem. No jordan valley. No plaestinian state except as a nonsensical “confederacy” with “Jordan”.

      So, did the greater israel project win – as marc Ellis seems to fear?

      That is the question. The answer is unfortunately, probably yes.

      Did jews of Conscience lose? that is the trick question isn’t it?

  3. RoHa
    RoHa
    November 26, 2013, 7:38 pm

    A coherent article for once.

    But spoiled by
    “If the world doesn’t think it will miss the prophetic in its distinctly Jewish embodiment the world isn’t thinking very deeply on the subject.”

    Is this because the Jewish version is so much better than the others?

    • Sibiriak
      Sibiriak
      November 26, 2013, 8:49 pm

      RoHa

      “If the world doesn’t think it will miss the prophetic in its distinctly Jewish embodiment the world isn’t thinking very deeply on the subject.”

      Is this because the Jewish version is so much better than the others?

      “Distinct” does not mean “better”. The point is about a value of diversity , not a hierarchy of value, imo.

  4. RudyM
    RudyM
    November 26, 2013, 11:22 pm

    If the world doesn’t think it will miss the prophetic in its distinctly Jewish embodiment the world isn’t thinking very deeply on the subject.

    I think we’d manage.

  5. mcohen
    mcohen
    November 27, 2013, 4:47 am

    Right now at this moment an israeli,any israeli,can offer an arab a job,a business opportunity,a start of something,an education
    no one else can and that is the reality and on that reality a future is possible
    all you offer marc ellis is waffle about “jewish prophetic”
    how is that going to put food on the table in a world facing increased scarcity

    • annie
      annie
      November 27, 2013, 5:11 am

      an israeli, any israeli,can offer an arab a job,a business opportunity,a start of something, an education no one else can and that is the reality

      you’re a delusional nutjob.

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      November 27, 2013, 7:19 am

      What a bunch of thinly veiled racist twaddle. What the Palestinians need from the zios is freedom, liberation.

    • talknic
      talknic
      November 27, 2013, 8:40 am

      @ mcohen “Right now at this moment an israeli,any israeli,can offer an arab a job,a business opportunity,a start of something … “

      Uh huh. But do they?

      “no one else can and that is the reality ”

      In loony land maybe.

  6. mcohen
    mcohen
    November 27, 2013, 5:47 am

    Delusional nutjob says

    the other day i saw an old client of mine and he asked me how my business was going and i said i am down to one string and he said ,yeah,its probably easier to play
    Thats all you need ,one note,at the right time,and the tune changes

  7. mcohen
    mcohen
    November 27, 2013, 6:10 am

    And any way what is a nutjob ? Is that a vegan like curse word.squeaky wheel takes comment section very seriously.

  8. Walid
    Walid
    November 27, 2013, 6:46 am

    “The possibility of such a signing hit me hard. ”

    It also hit Marc wrong. The Jordan scenario is based on Abbas, Fayyad and a dozen or so other Palestinians going along with walking away from Area C and taking whatever is left of the A and B Swiss-cheese into a Jordanian federation. But not the opinions of remaining 3 million Palestinians or the 1 million in Gaza that aren’t even a small part of this wicked brew. Neither of those of the other million refugees currently in Syria and Lebanon that also haven’t been included in any of this evil machination. Jordan that now subsists on loans, grants, subsidies and outright handouts could never absorb all these new subjects, even if they’d come with a few billions in donations from the oil Arabs, the US and the EU. Marc beats about the bush on this but it’s obvious his little fantasy backed by friend Viola is based on wishful thinking.

    A piece of the Negev in echange for Ariel and other settlements? Would that be where Israel has made it miraculously bloom or where it will be left for the Palestinians to try to do it themselves?

    • mcohen
      mcohen
      November 27, 2013, 6:14 pm

      Walid

      “The little fantasy ”

      roll out the map and link the piece of negev to gaza and jordan gets a port in gaza and access to the med.

  9. mcohen
    mcohen
    November 27, 2013, 7:26 pm

    Walid

    “The little fantasy ”

    roll out the map and link the piece of negev to gaza and jordan gets a port in gaza and access to the med.

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