President Trump’s possible call for Jordan to replace the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as Israel’s negotiating partner under Trump’s soon-to-be-released “ultimate deal” will be considerably strengthened if Trump’s newly-appointed National Security Adviser - John Bolton - and Secretary of Defense - James “Mad Dog” Mattis - concur on such a move.
Bolton has supported this strategy since 2009– telling Eric Shawn on 21 January 2018:
“I hope at some point the Administration recognizes and perhaps it is already quietly – that the two-state solution isn’t going anywhere. If anything I would say to King Abdullah of Jordan – “Be prepared to reassert Jordanian sovereignty over part of the West Bank – negotiate with Israel”. I think that’s a far better outcome than the continued pursuit of a mythical – I believe – unattainable viable Palestinian state”
Mattis has favoured the Obama-Kerry strategy – pointing out to the Aspen Security Forum in July 2013:
“We have got to find a way to make the two-state solution that Democrat and Republican administrations have supported, we’ve got to get there. And the chances for it, as the king of Jordan has pointed out, are starting to ebb because of the settlements and where they’re at, are going to make it impossible to maintain the two-state option.”
Mattis further reasoned:
“I paid a military security price every day as the commander of CentCom because the Americans were seen as biased in support of Israel and that moderates all the moderate Arabs who want to be with us, because they can’t come out publicly in support of people who don’t show respect for the Arab Palestinians. So he [Secretary of State John Kerry] is right on target with what he’s doing. And I just hope the protagonists want peace and a two-state solution as much as he does.”
Kerry however failed miserably – being unable to get the PLO back to the negotiating table after a PLO walk-out in April 2014 following nine months of unsuccessful negotiations on proposals specifically formulated by Kerry to resolve the long-running conflict.
- Moderate Arabs – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Oman - have come out publicly - joining Jordan and Egypt in meeting with Israel in the White House – without PLO participation - to discuss Gaza’s deteriorating situation.
- The PLO refuses to resume negotiations with Israel on the two-state solution: creating a second Arab State – in addition to Jordan – in the territory covered by the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine.
- The PLO will no longer accept America as sole mediator and is demanding an international conference be convened by mid-2018
The media have castigated Trump for appointing Bolton – typified by highly-credentialled columnist George Will claiming:
“Bolton will soon be the second-most dangerous American.”
Yet Will himself had written in the Washington Post on 17 April 1987:
“May 14 will be the 30th Anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, June 6 will be the 20th anniversary of the Six Day War. The West Bank has been held by Israel longer than it had been held by Jordan, the 1967 aggressor, which ever since has presented itself as the aggrieved party. Today, as every day since 1948, the key to peace is direct negotiations between Jordan and Israel, not a committee”
Mattis’s jocular remarks on meeting Bolton at the Pentagon - caught in an off-microphone exchange – signal Mattis could have already changed his thinking:
"I heard you're actually the devil incarnate and I wanted to meet you," he said.
A Mattis-Bolton accord on Jordan replacing the PLO in future negotiations with Israel will undoubtedly reinforce Trump’s preparedness to make this long-overdue call.