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Op-Ed: Jordan Needs a Seat at the Negotiating Table ASAP

King Abdullah of Jordan fears the Palestinian Arabs more than Israel does.
Published: Thursday, March 06, 2014 10:26 AM



Amman did stress... that it would get involved if - and only if - the talks directly harmed their interests, specifically Jordan's borders.
Jordan has become increasingly jittery after US Secretary of State John Kerry's framework agreement for peace missed meeting the second deadline for its release on 21 February - having initially been promised by the end of January.

Now US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro has let slip at a meeting of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors in Jerusalem on 24 February that the US hopes to present the framework agreement before the end of April.

The idea behind the framework agreement had been posited by a Senior State Department Official during a teleconference on 2 January:

"As you will have seen from the press, and indeed President Obama has spoken about the idea of establishing a framework for negotiations, that’s what we’re trying to achieve here – agreement on a framework that would serve as guidelines for the permanent status negotiations and that would address all of the core issues.

"We are not coming in with an American plan that would be imposed on the parties, but rather we want to have a detailed consultation with them about these ideas that have been generated as a result of the negotiations between the parties themselves, and see whether they can serve as gap bridges which could lead to this agreement on the framework for permanent status negotiations.

I want to stress, as we always do but it never seems quite to convince doubters, particularly, I think, in the region, that this is not an effort to achieve an interim agreement. It is an effort to provide agreed guidelines for a permanent status agreement, that is to say a full and final peace treaty between the parties. And that purpose here is, in effect, if you like, to – for the Secretary to climb with the two leaders to the top of the hill and be able to share with them the view of what’s on the other side, what peace will look like in terms of all of the core issues that have to be resolved between them. And once they have a shared vision of what that will look like, then it will become easier to finalize the details, and there will be a lot of details in the actual permanent status agreement itself."

Shapiro admitted Kerry had run into a lot of trouble climbing that hill while attempting to persuade Israel and the PLO to agree on the framework's terms:

“It would involve both sides being willing to negotiate on the basis of a framework that contains things in it that are uncomfortable for them [and about which] they may have
reservations,”

The framework, he said, “is very detailed.” At this point in the process, “everyone fights over every word as they should because the stakes are very high"

King Abdullah II of Jordan is nervous at the possible outcome and could now be positioning himself to take part in these negotiations - from which he had always previously sought to distance himself.

Former Jordanian Prime Minister - Marouf al-Bahit - told Al-Hayyat, a London based Arabic language news source - on 3 January: "Jordan needs to be present and involved in all future negotiations,"

Al- Bahit - currently the deputy head of the King's Council - an advisory board closest to King Abdullah - continued:

"It is unthinkable that Jordan should sit on the side, as an observer. Jordan should join the negotiating table immediately - since it is bound to be the one paying the price of the Israeli and American positions."

Al-Bahit's position did not represent the prevailing opinion in Amman - according to the article.

One senior official - who spoke on condition of anonymity - reportedly told Al-Hayyat:

"Jordan would welcome the decisions sealed by the negotiating process - "without any need whatsoever to sit at the negotiating table." Amman did stress, however, that it would get involved if - and only if - the talks directly harmed their interests, specifically Jordan's borders."

Abdullah cannot ignore - just seven weeks later - that the further delay in releasing the framework agreement could possibly lead to the total breakdown in negotiations between Israel and the PLO, which could directly harm Jordan's national interests.

Abdullah is now in the identical position he found himself on 11 October 2006 - when he told the Khaleej Times:

"I really think that by the first half of 2007 we might wake up to reality and realise that the two-state solution is no longer attainable. I think we are really running out of time .
Physically on the ground and geographically, I think there is less and less of a West Bank and Jerusalem to talk about."

He then warned:
"We want to go back to the 1967 borders. We are talking about that today. Are we going to talk about that tomorrow though? This is the danger."

Abdullah recognised then that compromise would inevitably involve Israel retaining part of the 'West Bank' - notwithstanding the PLO demanding it all.

With a negotiated two-state solution likely to fall by the wayside despite Kerry's desperate efforts to keep it alive - Abdullah is clearly aware that with less of the 'West Bank' to talk about in 2014 than in 2006 - the PLO might attempt to overthrow Abdullah - as it unsuccessfully tried to do in 1970 with Abdullah's father, King Hussein .

While Abdullah warned this week that "Jordan is Jordan and Palestine is Palestine" - the PLO Charter - and history - ominously state otherwise.

Jordan needs a seat at that negotiating table - immediately.