This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.
In Vienna last week, it wasn’t the people surrounding the interfaith dialogue that were boring. Not at all. The organizers of the conference are committed Austrian Christians who repent of their country’s history of anti-Semitism and are deeply committed to Palestinian freedom.
The problem is that we are stuck in a thoroughly invested time warp. It’s a rhetorical time scheme. Reality is about to intrude.
The theoretical discussion of political ways forward in Israel/Palestine suffers the same fate. So when I reported on the revived Jordanian option yesterday, the blowback was predictable.
Nonetheless, the handwriting is on the (W)all. Believe what you see.
What I hear from various sources is Jordan’s return to Palestine. It makes perfect sense. Some Palestinians will welcome the new “freedom” such an option offers.
These sources are four people from different political strata – not high up by any means – but interesting and not to be divulged I’m afraid. One is quite connected in the Islamic community, the others are different types of activists whom I have known for years and their attitude is telling – very much resigned to the devolution of Palestinian leadership and society. They are at the end of their rope.
According to my sources, this is how it goes. Under the umbrella of Jordan, Palestinians will have a way out of Jerusalem and the West Bank that is not (officially) controlled by Israel. That’s for travel to visit family in the Palestinian Diaspora, tourism, employment opportunities and purchasing goods. Like everyone else with means, Palestinians go where they want for the reasons they want. Then there will be a Jordanian way in for travel and trade, again not (officially) controlled by Israel. The world will open up for Palestinians. Severely restricted space and opportunity will seem less onerous.
“Seem” is the operative word here. Jordan will control the way in and out of Palestine and, especially with its Palestinian population “problem,” Jordan’s control will be considerable.
Jordan’s balancing act will be delicate and ongoing lest Jordan’s ruling class be displaced and Jordan become Palestine. Sound familiar?
For an oppressed people with no way out under Israel, the appearance of normalcy is more than meets the eye. Hope is reality negotiated. Is this negotiated hope better than Israel’s rule?
It’s easy for those on the outside to cite the obvious contradictions. But, then again, Palestinians are already negotiating occupation on a grand scale. Why not negotiate a renewed Jordanian occupation?
The BDS mantra is that Palestinians speak and those on the outside listen. This mantra has always been more complicated than assumed. Who speaks for Palestinians? What if Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank “speak” Jordan?
No matter the negotiated reality, under the revived Jordanian option Palestinian freedom will be severely truncated. Did anyone think that real freedom for Palestinians was on the American or Middle Eastern table – ever?
Gaza is left out of this scenario. My sources don’t know what to do with Palestine without Gaza. Nonetheless, what appears impossible may be happening. After all, Israel and Egypt already have Gaza figured out. Why complicate Gaza with Jordan?
My sources tell me that Palestinians who live the daily grind have had enough. This makes perfect sense. The repeated traumas of Israeli aggression have taken their toll. The third intifada option floated by John Kerry doesn’t hold much appeal for Palestinians who would actually experience Israel’s brutal response.
Looked at from Israel’s rightwing, though, a third intifada would be Israel’s way out of the Jordanian option which ostensibly places an ultimate limit on Israel’s expansion. I use “ostensibly” for good reason. The Jordanian option leaves the major settlements intact. This means that the Palestinian population centers – call them Bantustans or ghettos – would be surrounded by Israeli and Jordanian power forever.
What is most remarkable according to my sources is that the Palestinian negotiators, even after the Oslo Accords, don’t realize that Israel will dot every “i” and cross every “t” in any final status agreement. The Israeli squeeze on Palestinian life will continue after the signing. Anyone who thinks a signed agreement will stop Israel at Palestine’s official border is crazy. An Israeli signed final status Jordanian option will make Oslo seem loose and unfocused.
Palestinians and leftwing Jewish intellectuals and activists thought that Israel as a Western-oriented colonial power could not ultimately succeed in the second half of the 20th century. Israel was on the wrong side of history. They were wrong.
In the 21st century, they continue to think Israel’s victory is impossible. If my sources are right and the Jordanian option is signed, these intellectuals are wrong as well.