Team held secret talks in Amman after MK proposed W. Bank Palestinians be given Jordanian citizenship.
By YAAKOV KATZ, KHALED ABU TOAMEH
A delegation of security officials secretly traveled to Jordan last week in an attempt to assuage concerns that Israel plans to transfer Palestinians from the West Bank to the Hashemite Kingdom, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The purpose of the visit was to ensure that strategic ties between the countries are not harmed.
The delegation was led by several officials from the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, who met with senior officials close to King Abdullah II.
The visit was scheduled as part of Israeli efforts to ease Jordanian concerns regarding a proposal National Union MK Arye Eldad made in the Knesset two months ago that Palestinians be given Jordanian citizenship.
At the time, Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh summoned Israel's envoy to Amman, Ya'acov Reuven, and issued a strong protest "over a debate in the Knesset on a motion on a so-called two states for the two peoples on the two banks of the Jordan River."
Defense officials said this week that despite Israeli assurances that the Netanyahu government was not planning on evicting Palestinians to Jordan, Amman's anxiety was still high, likely an indication that "the Jordanians are still concerned that Israel is considering Jordan as an alternative for a Palestinian state," one official said. "The visit was aimed at assuaging those fears and ensuring that strategic relations between the countries stay on track."
Alarmed by rumors regarding a US-backed scheme to turn Jordan into a homeland for Palestinians, Abdullah is planning a series of steps to foil any attempt to resettle Palestinian refugees in the kingdom.
The rumors were triggered by talks about a plan to establish a decentralized government in Jordan, where local communities would enjoy some form of autonomy.
The Jordanian authorities' decision to revoke the citizenship of Palestinians in Jordan - who make up more than 70 percent of the kingdom's population - added fuel to the fire by giving substance to the rumors.
At least 40,000 Palestinians are believed to have lost their status as Jordanian citizens in recent months.
Jordanian Interior Minister Nayef al-Kadi explained that the decision to rescind the citizenship of Palestinians was taken to preempt ostensible schemes to transform the kingdom into a Palestinian state.
"Jordan is not Palestine just as Palestine is not Jordan," the minister said in defense of the measure. "We want to help the Palestinians return to their homeland."
In recent months, the kingdom has been awash in rumors about a US-Israeli plan to turn Jordan into a Palestinian state.
The rumors, which increased in light of the revocation of the Palestinians' Jordanian citizenship, prompted the monarch to pay a surprise visit to the headquarters of the Jordanian Armed Forces over the weekend.
Addressing the army commanders, Abdullah said the rumors were aimed at harming Jordan's national unity and stability.
He added that the rumors were being circulated by people "with suspicious agendas" and urged all Jordanians to confront this "disease."
The king said that Jordan's commitment to the right of return of Palestinian refugees is "constant and unchangeable."
"No power can impose a position on Jordan that contradicts its interests," he said. "I stress again and clearly that there is no power that can dictate to us anything that is against the interests of Jordan and Jordanians."
The king also told his army commanders that the US had never pressured Jordan to absorb Palestinian refugees.
The king did not say who was behind the rumors, but he added that the majority of those who were trying to harm unity were inside the kingdom. "This is shameful and religiously prohibited," he said.
Political analysts in Amman said the monarch was "extremely nervous" because of the growing rumors. They said that the king and others members of the royal family were convinced that the new government in Israel was quietly pushing for the idea of transforming Jordan into a homeland for the Palestinians.
One analyst said that the king was planning to form a new government that would be able to "confront the grave challenges" facing Jordan.
He said that the fact that the king visited the army headquarters without being accompanied by Prime Minister Nader Dahabi was a sign of his dissatisfaction with the performance of the present government with regards to the rumors.
"The king is taking the rumors too seriously," the analyst said. "He's probably justified in doing so because many Jordanians are beginning to believe in the conspiracy theory according to which the future Palestinian state will be established in our kingdom."
Jordanian newspaper columnist Yasser Abu Hilaleh expressed fear that Israel had already begun carrying out a policy of transfer against Palestinians living in the West Bank.
"Many Palestinians have also lost their rights after leaving the West Bank to study or for medical treatment and did not return home," he noted. "The essence of the problem is how to help the Palestinians stick to their lands."â€¢
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