A plan proposed by Ali Shihabi - a Saudi author and commentator on Middle Eastern Politics - proposing the merger of Jordan, Gaza and part of the 'West Bank' into one single territorial entity to be called “The Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine” - has received little attention in the Israeli media or been commented on by Israeli politicians since its release on 8 June.
Yet the plan contains the following features which should excite Israel’s reluctant media to be seeking responses from its political leaders:
It would supersede two previous Saudi peace proposals in 1981 and 2002 calling for Israel to withdraw completely from the 'West Bank'
- The two-state solution – the creation of a separate Palestinian Arab State between Jordan and Israel - promoted unsuccessfully by the United Nations for the last 29 years – is consigned to the diplomatic graveyard
- Amman – not Jerusalem - will be the capital of The Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine
- The right of return to Israel is abandoned.
- Palestinians in the 'West Bank', Gaza and stateless refugees get full citizenship in the merged Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine with all the elements of sovereignty applicable to those Territories that belonging to a fully recognized state in the UN entail.
I reached out to the author Ali Shihabi – who kindly gave me the following interview:
What was your idea behind this paper?
I see a failure of Israeli imagination in looking for a solution to the Palestine tragedy. This combined with a lack of realism dominating Palestinian Arab thinking has provided multiple opportunities for political entrepreneurs like the Iranians to use and misuse the cause. Israelis want to perpetuate this inertia by kicking the can continuously down the road while looking for every excuse to do nothing substantive to solve this problem.
Israel sees time to be on its side (and so far it has been proven right) but fundamentals like 7 million Arabs living between the river and the sea are a time bomb that eventually will blow up in their face one way or another
We have seen from recent experience that state building is a virtually impossible task, particularly in a polarized environment so creating a “Palestinian State” from scratch is a fool’s errand. At the same time Jordan is a decently run country by regional standards and hence its government infrastructure can be used to incorporate 'Palestine' which will instantly have a globally recognized and respected government with all the basics like security, government bureaucracy etc.
But many Jordanians don’t want anything to do with this?
Yes, a false separate “Jordanian” identity has developed over the last decades from what is really a people with zero differences, ethnic or religious that have been one people since time immemorial so that is a problem. That difference has been pushed by some Jordanian elites in a quest to perpetuate their dominance. This formula however does not eliminate Jordanian elites and preserves the monarchy and all its institutions and makes Jordan/'Palestine' a much more viable and strategically important state with a substantial footprint on the Mediterranean and a state critically important for regional stability, so it is really in their long-term interest.
In any event if a consensus among the powers that be decides on this formula Jordanian elites can be convinced. They are a minor obstacle once you separate the noise from the substance.
Well, many Palestinians don’t want it also it seems
That is the million-dollar question and is one that should be decided by extensive polling and then confirmed by a plebiscite. My guess is that a majority of Palestinian Arabs defined as those that are paying the price daily for the status quo, i.e. those in Gaza, 'West Bank' and the refugee camps in Lebanon Syria and Jordan would vote for it once it is explained clearly to them. It is important that only they should decide and not Palestinian Arabs comfortable in the diaspora with citizenships in other countries or other Arabs and Muslims who pay no price for taking an absolutist position.
It is easy to sit sipping your cappuccino at a Starbucks in Dubai or L.A and demand unrealistic solutions since its no skin off your and your family’s back while the people suffering from the status quo continue to pay the heavy price.
So, what is required here to get this process going?
Israel is the key factor. It holds most of the cards and its military, economic and political success since 1948 has made its leaders arrogant and contemptuous of the Arabs generally since the Israelis have imposed their terms on the region despite all Arab efforts and noise made in decades past. This arrogance is clouding Israeli judgement and blinding them to the opportunity that presents itself today for them to drive a sustainable peace process.
They can get a lot of what they want but have to give a bit to get a sustainable solution that will integrate them into the region permanently, but this will require an Israeli De Gaulle with guts and vision, and I don’t see one on the horizon unfortunately
Will an Israeli De Gaulle emerge to endorse Mr Shihabi’s plan as part of his platform in the upcoming Israeli elections in November? I hope the media ask the politicians for their answers before Election Day.
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.