Benjamin Netanyahu (L), Donald Trump (C) and Mahmoud Abbas (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel is not behind what Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said was a US-backed peace plan based on a Palestinian confederation with Jordan, senior Israeli diplomatic officials clarified Sunday.
The clarification came after reports claimed the idea of a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation – which Abbas told a Peace Now delegation was raised in a conversation he had with US envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt – was an Israeli proposal.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s position remains that an agreement must be directly negotiated between the sides and include a demilitarized Palestinian entity – which he has referred to it as a “state-minus” – with Israeli security control west of the Jordan River, the official said. That position, which Netanyahu has articulated numerous time, “has not changed,” the official added.
The idea of a Jordanian-Palestinian federation was first put forward by King Hussein in March 1972 during an address to the Jordanian Parliament. His idea was for a United Arab Kingdom made up of two districts: the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and a Palestinian district. In his plan, east Jerusalem was to become the capital of the Palestinian component of the federation.
The two districts would be autonomous, though security and foreign affairs would be under control of the central government in Amman.
The plan was rejected by all parties: the PLO, the Arab States and Israel. Nevertheless, it continued to be discussed from time to time until July 1988, when Hussein severed all legal and administrative ties with the West Bank, with the exception of maintaining a standing in Jerusalem. He explained this move was designed to help the Palestinians establish an independent state.
Until that time, half of Jordan’s lower parliament represented constituencies in the West Bank.
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The onset of the Oslo process, with its Declaration of Principles signed on the White House Lawn 25 years ago this month, further shelved the federation idea amid talk of a two-state solution.
Netanyahu himself endorsed the two-state solution, though with caveats, during his famous Bar-Ilan speech in 2009 in which he endorsed a demilitarized Palestinian state – backed by international guarantees – that would recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. In that speech he made clear that the lines of this demilitarized state would be negotiated as part of a final agreement, and stressed that Jerusalem “must remain the united capital of Israel with continued religious freedom for all faiths.”
Netanyahu has not publicly backed away from that speech, or endorsed the idea of a Jordanian-Palestinian federation.
Nevertheless, one official said that the prolonged diplomatic stalemate is leading to increased talk about various other options.
Abbas told the Peace Now delegation
he believed in a confederation with Jordan, but only if it was a triangular one that included Israel as well.
The Jordanians immediately rejected the confederation idea.
However, the idea is not without traction among Palestinians.
An October 2016 poll taken by the Nablus-based Al-Najah University found that 46% of respondents supported the creation of a confederation with Jordan on the basis of two independent states with strong institutional relations, while 41% rejected it. Without respondents from Gaza included, the percentage of support in the West Bank alone was even higher, with 52% in favor and 44% opposed.
In a related development, Netanyahu, in a Rosh Hashanah toast at the Foreign Ministry, said on Monday that there was a “gradual normalization taking place with key countries in the Arab world.”
He said this normalization was a byproduct of the “horrible” nuclear agreement with Iran and was a sign of hope “for true peace.”
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