Saudi Arabia has sent US President Joe Biden and the United Nations (UN) a clear message to abandon the idea of creating a new Arab State between Israel and Jordan in an article published in Al-Arabiya News on 8 June headlined: The Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine
Its author – Ali Shihabi - is not your ordinary run-of-the mill journalist. He supports and has the ear of Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman (MBS) – the controversial next successor to the Saudi throne.
MBS is the driving force behind NEOM – a brand new US$500 billion megacity to be built on 26500km² in northern Saudi Arabia – an area larger than Israel – powered by 100% renewable energy. The project includes a bridge spanning the Red Sea - connecting NEOM to Africa. NEOM will be close to the borders of Jordan, Egypt and Israel.
Shihabi has been a member of NEOM’s Advisory Board since 2020.
MBS has not sought to publically distance himself from Shihabi’s article.
Shihabi lays the groundwork for his proposal:
“The basically insurmountable power imbalance between the Arabs and Israelis, let alone between the Palestinian Arabs and Israelis, argues for a radical rethinking of the approach to solving thei problem.
"Israel is a reality firmly implanted on the ground that has to be accepted, however grudgingly, by the region around it”
Shihabi then proposes his solution:
“The Palestinian problem can only be solved today if it is redefined. The issue in this day and age for people should be not so much the ownership of ancestral land but more the critical need to have a legal identity—a globally respected citizenship that allows a person to operate in the modern world. Labor in this day and age is mobile and having citizenship in a country that facilitates such mobility is critical to human development.
The most logical vehicle for this redefinition and hence for the solution to the Palestine problem is the kingdom of Jordan. Over the last seventy-five years, Jordan has developed into a relatively well-governed state, although the impact of regional political turmoil has caused it to fail economically and become heavily reliant on foreign aid for its survival. It is this Jordanian governance infrastructure that needs to be captured and put to productive use in integrating the millions of Palestinians and Jordanians into a modern, reasonably well-functioning state that would, in an era of real peace and economic integration with Jordan’s neighbors, have a much higher chance of growth and prosperity.
"This proposed enlarged kingdom would include present-day Jordan, Gaza, and the 'West Bank' (areas populated by Palestinians attached in a contiguous manner and physically connected to Jordan, i.e., not broken up into islands).”
Shihabi dismisses Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Jordan claims to be separate entities:
“Jordanians and Palestinians are as similar as any people can be. They are Sunni Arabs from the same neighbourhood. Merging them will not create any long-term ethnic or sectarian fault lines.”
Significantly Shihabi’s proposal does not call for Saudi Arabia to replace Jordan as Custodian of the Islamic Holy Sites in Jerusalem – a fear long-held by Jordan.
This Saudi concession should help embolden Jordan to begin negotiations with Israel on this Saudi Arabian initiative.
Endorsement of this Saudi initiative by Biden and the UN will greatly advance the prospect of finally ending the 100 years-old unresolved Jewish-Arab conflict.
David Singeris an Australian lawyer who is active in Zionist community organizations in that country. He founded the "Jordan is Palestine" Committee in 1979.
Author’s note: The cartoon — commissioned exclusively for this article — is by Yaakov Kirschen aka “Dry Bones”- one of Israel’s foremost political and social commentators — whose cartoons have graced the columns of Israeli and international media publications for decades.