Israeli-PA talks already have a winner – Jordan’s Abdullah

Analysis: To host Mideast “peace talks” is a feather in any country’s hat – it gives the country visibility, status, honor, prestige.

Jordan's King Abdullah II 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed)
Jordan's King Abdullah II 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed)
Nearly every international leader who comes to Jerusalem offers to host Israeli- Palestinian negotiations.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy would die for the opportunity, as would Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Greece, Russia and many other countries have indicated their interest as well.
RELATED:Israeli, Palestinian leaders to meet in Amman
To host Mideast “peace talks” is a feather in any country’s hat – it gives the country visibility, status, honor, prestige.
Just ask Spain, which hosted the Madrid Conference in 1991, and Norway, birthplace of the Oslo process.
Granted, the planned meeting Tuesday between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s envoy Yitzhak Molcho and Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat is no Madrid Conference.
But still, that the meeting is taking place in Amman is a diplomatic coup for Jordanian King Abdullah II.
And it is not a coup that just fell into his lap. No, Abdullah sought it out. This was made clear in a press release put out by the Jordanian foreign minister on Sunday, saying that the meeting came about as a result of intensive efforts by Abdullah, including through meetings in Ramallah in November with Abbas, and just a few days later with President Shimon Peres in Amman.
Jordan is keen on hosting this meeting for a number of reasons. First, because there is still wide consensus on the Palestinian issue in the Arab world, even in an Arab world going through tumultuous change.
In the past, meetings such as these often took place in Sharm e-Sheikh, under the auspices of now deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Because of Egypt’s position in the region, and its peace treaty with Israel, Cairo was often the “go-to” address on Palestinian-Israeli issues.
Since Mubarak’s fall, however, a void was created, one Abdullah is more than happy to fill.
By doing so Abdullah gains credit in Washington and in European capitals, credit that can’t hurt at a time of far-reaching regional changes.
Practically taking steps to help the Palestinian cause also places Abdullah on a high moral pedestal in the Arab world, casting him in the role as leader who not only talks, but also acts, to help the Palestinians.
It gives him legitimacy as a leader, both in the region and – to a certain degree – among his own people.
Secondly, while so many in the world – the US, EU, Russia and UN – give lip service to the goal of reaching an Israeli- Palestinian agreement by 2012, few really have any illusion that it will happen.
Rather, the focus now is less on conflict resolution, and more on conflict management.
And there are few countries in the world more interested in managing this conflict, or in keeping it from exploding again, than Jordan.
With unrest just under the surface in Jordan, and a great deal of uncertainty in the kingdom as to what will be on its eastern border in Iraq after the withdrawal of US troops, the last thing Abdullah needs is an Israeli-Palestinian conflagration on the West Bank that could spill over to his side of the Jordan River and ignite the flames there.
According to a report Sunday by Petra, Jordan’s official news agency, Jordanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Muhammad Al-Kayed said his country’s efforts in arranging Tuesday’s meeting was based on the belief that the two statesolution was a top Jordanian interest.
He said that the only way to realize this was through direct talks that dealt with all final status issues “in a way that preserves Jordan’s interests.”
Jordan is not interested in seeing Palestinian unilateral moves, but rather prefers to see a state established with Israel’s cooperation and international approval. Abdullah is not interested in seeing a Palestinian mini-state created on his border without Israeli recognition, because this would inevitably be a constant source of tension and cross-border terrorism and violence that could easily spill over to the East Bank of the Jordan and threaten his kingdom.
According to Petra, Kayed said the only way to realize a two-state solution was through direct and serious talks between the two sides, addressing all final status issues including Jerusalem, refugees, security and borders “in a way that preserves Jordan’s interests.”
In other words, for a two-state solution to work it has to be done in a cooperative, orderly manner with Israeli support and Jordanian input.
A failed Palestinian state would not only pose a threat to Israel, but also to Jordan.
Abdullah realizes this, and very much wants a seat around the table where issues that will have far-reaching consequences for his country are being determined. On Tuesday he will take up that seat.