Palestine and the Kingdom of Jordan

A combined federated entity between the West Bank and Jordan could provide the key to the Israel-Palestinian conflict as well as maintaining the buffer between Israel and Iraq. However, the initiative must be solely on Jordan’s part.

Jordan King Abdullah 311 (photo credit: AP)
Jordan King Abdullah 311
(photo credit: AP)
The political upheaval in Tunisia and Egypt has prompted Israeli political analysts into attempting to forecast possible repercussions and developments in Israel's eastern neighbor, the Kingdom of Jordan.
Israel has a strategic interest in the continued stability of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Jordan and Israel have signed a formal peace treaty and Jordan complies with its undertakings in the treaty. Jordan has a well trained army equipped with US arms and a highly efficient security service which has acted decisively against terrorist groups attempting to infiltrate Israel. The border with Israel is peaceful and although the Jordanian press and professional groups are hostile towards it, Jordan permits trade with the Jewish State and continues to welcome its tourists. .
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Israeli companies have invested in Jordan and have outsourced some of their manufacturing to Jordanian cities. The Jordanian airline flies to Tel Aviv and Amman is a popular and convenient hub for Israelis flying to the Far East and more significantly, for those flying to the Gulf States. Educated in England and in the United States, King Abdullah II is regarded as a pro-Western ruler, and like Israel, the US categorizes Jordan as "a major non-NATO ally." An independent Jordan has always been viewed by Israel as a bulwark against the strategic nightmare of having Iraqi or Iranian forces on its Eastern border.
One particular school of political thought in Israel believes that thekey to the Palestinian conflict lies in giving a role to Jordan in theWest Bank. In all likelihood, a Palestinian state consisting only ofthe West Bank will have an unviable economy. Without the Gaza strip, aPalestinian state would lack a sea port and have no internationalairport.
However, if the West Bank was to be combined in a federated entity withJordan, it would become a viable economic and political unit with adeep sea port in Aqaba and an airport in Amman. Furthermore, such aterritory would be larger than that of Israel. The majority of Jordan’spopulation is Palestinian and they comprise the professional andbusiness classes as well as dominating the country’s civil society. TheJordanian-Palestinian middle classes would be an enormous asset to afederated Palestinian-Jordan state. Past history with theIsrael-Jordanian border dictates that a Jordanian army stationed in theWest Bank would be far more effective in combating terrorism than localPalestinian forces. 
It goes without saying, however, that this Israeli pipe dream facesmyriad obstacles and dilemmas: Jordan has disassociated itself from theWest Bank and has taken a number of steps to limit the Jordaniancitizenships held by West Bank Palestinians. Despite the reference inthe Israel-Jordanian peace treaty pertaining to Jordan's role inIsrael’s Muslim holy sites, King Abdullah has thus far shown no sign ofwanting any role in a future Palestinian state. The Jordaniangovernment is dominated by the indigenous non-Palestinian East Bankers,and the key elements of the armed forces are officered by Bedouinsfiercely loyal to the monarchy.
The Jordanian leadership has proved to be remarkably resilient and thePalestinian population has shown little inclination to defy a regimethat, although authoritarian, nonetheless remains one of the moreprosperous, open and orderly of Arab societies. Any federation with theWest Bank may prove to be an irredentist factor and undermine thestability of the Hashemite monarchy. The fear is that a radical,Palestinian dominated state would replace Jordan as Israel’s neighbor,essentially eliminating the safe zone between the Jewish State and Iraq.
At the urging of the United States, Israel has in the past bolsteredthe Hashemite Kingdom against Syria. But with regards to Jordan’sinternal affairs, Israel has been – and indeed, should remain - apassive observer. The last time Israel attempted to influence aneighboring state’s regime-change was with the Maronite Christians inLebanon in the 1980s. This ended in unmitigated disaster, eventuallyleading to the assassination of president-elect Bashir Gemayel in 1982by the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.
While Israel can hope that in the future a stable and friendly Jordanwill play a role in the West Bank, it must be prudent not to take anyof its own steps towards that goal; The Jewish State must continue toremain patient until the day the initiative comes from the HashemiteKingdom’s own volition. 
The writer teaches international law at Hebrew University and is a former legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry.