Should Jordan be Palestine?

In fear of an uprising, the King of Jordan has his private airplane running 24 hours a day, seven days a week to whisk him away in case of a revolt.

Jordan's King Hussein visits grieving familes 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Jordan's King Hussein visits grieving familes 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
If you’ve heard former MK Aryeh Eldad speak in the past few years (before recent Knesset elections, at least), you probably heard him say something like this: “The vast majority of Jordan is Palestinian.
In fear of an uprising, the King of Jordan has his private airplane running 24 hours a day, seven days a week to whisk him away in case of a revolt. He should declare that Jordan is the Palestinian national homeland or seek asylum in London.”
Such language (there was also a petition and a pamphlet) is only the most recent incarnation of a push for “Jordan is Palestine,” a slogan many on the Right still adhere to.
In a lengthy 1988 article on the topic for Commentary (rejecting “Jordan is Palestine”), Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes and international affairs expert Adam Garfinkle documented many proponents of the theory, even practical Israeli plans for potentially realizing it, and Pipes continues to update the article on his website with quotations of relevant personalities who maintain the opinion.
As Eldad has explained, the goal of making Jordan into Palestine is to lessen pressure on Israel to implement the “two-state solution.” Once Jordan becomes Palestine, the “the Palestinians [would] lose their orphan status as a people without a state” and “their international demands will become much weaker.”
The two-state solution would become meaningless as there would already be a Palestinian state, and there would therefore be much less of an argument for Israel to withdraw from Judea and Samaria, something Jordan-is-Palestine proponents rightly fear would lead to grave danger for Israel.
If only it were that simple.
WESTERN PRESSURE on Israel is not founded only upon the slogan, “two-states for two peoples.” Such pressure is based on geopolitical factors such as the millions of Arabs and Muslims who comprise multiple states, who control large swaths of territory and important resources, who are sizable minorities of European states and who oppose Israel’s existence without regard to western formulations.
It is based in an unspoken anti-Semitism, the feeling that these Israelis, these Jews are manipulative land-grabbers who take what’s not theirs, who act like they can do whatever they want, when in reality, if it weren’t for outside support they would never survive the Arab onslaught.
It’s based in Western guilt over imperialism and colonialism and a Jewish tendency to blame ourselves for the wrongdoing of others.
It finds rationalization and open expression in liberal terminology such as independence, human rights, national aspirations, democracy, occupation, apartheid and “two-states for two peoples.” But that’s only the gift wrapping.
So on the day Jordan is renamed “Palestine,” Israel’s detractors will not wake up enlightened to the falseness of the claims of apartheid and occupation. Western ambassadors will not turn to their Arab counterparts and say – “your claim is resolved, we won’t play along with your war against Israel any longer.”
On the day Jordan becomes Palestine, the pressure on Israel will increase. In place of a state ruled by a Hashemite monarchy allied with the US, which controversially entered into a treaty with Israel and which cooperates with Israel on security matters, there would instead be a state ruled by a majority that believes Israel’s existence is a nakba, a catastrophe, committed by the most vile people; that Israel is actually their homeland wrongfully stolen from them. And, they would have all the tools of statehood – diplomatic and military, as well as a very long shared border – at their disposal to right that wrong and create more instability.
Today, Jordan reportedly allows armed Israeli drones to use its airspace to operate in Syria, and Israeli drones are even monitoring the Syria-Jordan border on Jordan’s behalf. That 110 of the 120 members of Jordan’s lower legislative house recently signed a petition calling for the release of a Jordanian terrorist who murdered seven Israeli schoolgirls while they were visiting the “Island of Peace” in Jordan, however – not to mention the rise of Islamists in Egypt and soon in Syria – is a sign of what non- Hashemite rule would look like.
A Palestinian-ruled Jordan therefore represents a danger almost identical to, perhaps even greater than, a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria, and no hasbarah (public diplomacy) activist or ambassador complaining about how the two-state solution was already implemented is going to change that.
The “Jordan-is-Palestine” plan is thus a right-wing fantasy which mirrors the left-wing fantasy of the “two-state solution.” Both are based on the assumption that if the Palestinians had a state of their own, the conflict would cease, Israel would capture the moral high ground and the fundamental perception of the conflict would shift, that it would become a run-of-the mill territorial dispute between states, etc.
The right-wing version, however, is more hypocritical as its proponents recognize something their leftwing counterparts fail to: that the creation of a Palestinian state in the “West Bank” would not lead to an end of the conflict or improve Israel’s diplomatic position. Despite this recognition, the Jordan-is- Palestine proponents pursue in the east bank the very logic they rightfully reject with regard to the west bank.
There is, however, an important hasbarah function served by the Jordan-is-Palestine argument. It’s a reminder of a history that has been forgotten, ignored and repressed: the history of how the international community unanimously recognized “the historical connection of the Jewish people to Palestine” and “the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country,” and how Judea and Samaria is not alien territory to Jews, but part of their homeland which was illegally conquered and ethnically cleansed of its Jews by Jordan in 1948 and renamed the “West Bank” in 1950.
That history undermines the narrative that Israel’s creation was a post-Holocaust scheme in which the Jews, with guilt-ridden European help, stole land which was not their own, and all the policy implications that narrative carries, such as the alleged need to establish a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria.
It’s also a reminder of how that policy has already failed as once before territory the Jews sought (“every expert knows that for a prosperous Palestine, an adequate territory beyond the Jordan is indispensable,” Herbert Samuel once said, prior to becoming High Commissioner) and which was part of (actually, the majority of) the land promised to them, was relinquished and handed over to Arabs, yet Arab aspirations were not satiated and violent opposition to Zionism did not abate. It also asks the reader: if a Palestinian-Arab state already exists, why does justice demand that there be another one?
But hasbarah has its limits. And whatever the utility of Jordan-is-Palestine as a hasbarah point, it does not remove the danger that Jordan-is-Palestine as a peace plan would pose – dangers which all of the history prior and subsequent to Israel’s establishment point to.
The writer is a political activist and an attorney.