Comment: The downfall of the 'Jordanian option'

How one politician's ambitions have worked against what many right-wing Israelis see as a viable future solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinians demonstrate in the Old City of Jerusalem, 1937 (photo credit: AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE)
Palestinians demonstrate in the Old City of Jerusalem, 1937
(photo credit: AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE)
After months of preparations, "The Jordan Option - The Ultimate Alternate Solution" conference will take place in at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem next week.
The organizers of the event, right-wing writers and bloggers, want it to carry weight. They invited Knesset member Yehuda Glick (Likud) to take part. Former Knesset member Arieh Eldad is listed among the speakers, which also includes Mudar Zahran, billed as the Secretary General of the Jordanian Opposition Coalition and the representative of six million Jordanians of Palestinian extraction.
According to past reports, Zahran, who has written for the Jerusalem Post, has pretensions to bringing about the collapse of the Kingdom of Jordan and to becoming the next leader of Jordan, replacing King Abdullah II. Hypothetically, immediately after he does so, he says he would make peace with Israel. His writings and ideas have sparked the imaginations of some columnists on the Israeli right: he was interviewed in Israel Hayom, took part in a conference at Ariel University, and had a column written about him in Ma'ariv.
He was recently featured as a commentator on the i24 News television channel broadcast from Jaffa in English and Arabic. He is presented everywhere as the leader of the Jordanian opposition.
Slowly but surely, with his media coverage broadening to English-languages publications, Zahran has consolidated his status.
Within the past six months he has even obtained a meeting with a Likud minister, to whom he expounded his ideas. Eureka, they thought on the right: there's hope and there's an opposition in Jordan with an aspiration on par with organizations in exile to turn the Kingdom of Jordan into a secular, modern Palestine. As the Jewish sages said, when someone tells you that he sought diligently and he found, believe him.
A surprising twist in the plot has, however, taken place in the past few weeks. Zahran developed a strange obsession with Israeli-Arab journalist Khaled Abu-Toameh, formerly the Jerusalem Post Arab affairs reporter. Zahran wrote articles attacking Abu-Toameh and smearing his reputation with all kinds of tales. Since Abu-Toameh is well known to many reporters and respected by columnists on both left and right, his circle of acquaintances, especially on the right, started to stick pins in the "leader of the Jordanian opposition" balloon. It was no more than a mirage.
The first was Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick, a promoter of the Jordanian option, and a personal and professional acquaintance of Abu-Toameh for fifteen years. In a long Facebook post she told how she wanted to believe Zahran, to believe that there was an opposition to the king, that there was a chance of establishing a Palestinian state in Jordan.
Glick commented how she had been led up the garden path: "I also cited Zahran and described his vision of Jordan as Palestine," Glick wrote. "I recommended that President Trump and/or Prime Minister Netanyahu meet with Zahran if Abdullah continues to protect Tamimi from extradition. After I wrote the column, I was contacted by three knowledgeable sources with whom I have longstanding relations.
"They did not coordinate their calls. Each one told me independently that Zahran is not a credible source. He is not a leader of an opposition movement. He doesn't have an organization. He has multiple websites, they said… I was disappointed because, as I wrote in my second column, I think the best way to compel Abdullah to behave responsibly, as behooves an ally in the war against jihadist terror, is to make clear to him that he isn’t the only option.
"My colleagues effectively told me that despite the fact that we could use an alternative to Abdullah, none exist today, at least none that are better than he." (Ahlam Tamimi masterminded the bombing of the Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem in August 2000 in which 15 people were killed).
Glick has been joined by other right-wing journalists: commentator and columnist Ruthie Blum, Dr Harold Rhode, and Varda Meyers Epstein on her blog "Elder of Zyon", considered a leading right-wing publication.
The important and interesting part of what Glick writes concerns her brave and unwavering friendship with Abu-Toameh. The thing that finally persuaded her that Zahran was a hollow impostor was his campaign of slander against a journalist colleague. Who says there's no solidarity between journalists from left and right? Who says there's no brotherhood among journalists, Jewish and Arab?
This article first appeared in Globes