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Amman form the Citadel
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photo by Rhonda Spivak


Rhonda Spivak, Dec 2, 2012

In a speech in October , 2012  before the Washington Institute for Near East Policy , Israeli journalist Edud Ya'ari , a leading expert on Arab Affairs for Israel's Channel 2 Television said that there is "No chance of reconciliation [of the Palestinian Authority] with Hamas in Gaza,' and as a result "we have more and more people quietly but more and more .. talking about the possibility of re-linking the West Bank to Jordan."[to see the  video of  Ehud Ya'ari's presetnation, go to]

Ya'ariadded that " Ahmed Halidi leading this trend, there are others in the WB especially those families and clans who were traditionally close to the Hashemites in Nabus and Hebron, who are echoing it."

Ya'ari said “The idea being let’s turn the West Bank and PA into ... an extra province of Jordan with special arrangements. These people that are talking of linking WB to East Bank “are thinking in terms of Jordan being changed within next two years or so.”'
Ya'ari's assessment was that with the majority of Jordanians being Palestinians, who are politically underrepresented in the Kingdom, the likelihood is that we will see "turbulence in Jordan" and that the boiling point for testing Jordan's future with be "the moment after Assad." The Palestinian majority in Jordan is excluded from government jobs, state college education and state healthcare, as has been noted by Mudar Zahran, a Palestinian -Jordanian writer in the Jerusalem Post Oct 22.
On October 9, former crown prince of Jordan, Prince Hassan, actually told a group of Palestinians in Amman that “the West Bank is a part of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which included both banks of the [Jordan] River.” Hassan added that: “I hope that I do not live to see the day when Jordan, or the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, relinquishes the land occupied in 1967 by the IDF.”
Former Crown prince of Jordan Prince Hassan is in fact King Abdullah's uncle. What are the chances that he delivered this message to Palestinians in the West Bank without the approval of King Abdullah? None at all in my view.
Why did the King put out this trial balloon out of the mouth of his uncle?

Because four days earlier on October 5 for the first time weekly anti-regime protests which openly call for toppling the King were not just made up of Jordanian East Bankers or Bedouin Jordanians but included the Palestinian majority and Palestinians living in refugee camps in Jordan.

Sensing that the regime is in trouble, it seems possible that King Abdullah through the mouth of his uncle Hassan was trying to appeal to the disenfranchised Palestinian majority, telling there might be a possible arrangement whereby they could be absorbed in a framework of a West Bank-Jordanian confederation or federation of some kind.  Is he appealing to the Palestinians as their protectorate?

Some see the Crown prince's statement as a sign of desperation, which it arguably is. [In Zahran suggests that the real number of protesters was close to 250,000 in Amman but the Kingdom's controlled media alleged it was only 5,000 ].

There is arguably another factor here at play in the Crown Prince's statement that the West Bank could be federated with Jordan, which is that King Abdullah no doubt knows full well that West Banker Palestinians are fed up with the corruption in Mahmoud Abbas's PA, and that the King reasonably fears Hamas will takeover in the West Bank at some point in the future.
A Hamas takeover in the West Bank would likely served to embolden the Palestinian Moslem Brotherhood opposition to the King in Jordan, and serve to fuel the overthrow of the Hashemite Kingdom. Is it possible that The King wants to pre-empt this and negotiate some linkage to the West Bank, making it an autonomous province of Jordan, so that he can shape the destiny of what happens to the West Bank?  In other words, maybe he has decided it is better to have the West Bank under his purview than not. It is, needless to say, a very risky proposition and I personally think that it is quite likely that under any new constellation, the Hashemite Regime could be doomed to fall in the future.

Long term, is it possible that Israel be more likely to withdraw from 90% or more of the West Bank (keeping just the major settlement blocs) if the Palestinians and Jordanians were agreeing to federate the West Bank to Jordan?  From an economic point of view, the West Bank is arguably far more functional as an economic unit in a federation with Jordan, as it is hardly economically viable on its own.


Interstingly enough, the Jordanian Crown prince's statement was also made after Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave an interview to Yisrael Hayom during Jewish New Years this September in which he said he is in favour of unilaterally withdrawing from the West Bank, except for the major settlement blocs, if an agreement couldn't be reached. On September 24, Dan Meridor, Deputy Prime Minister (and in the Likud party) disagreed with Barak, telling the Times of Israel ‘There is no way we’ll take our army out of Judea and Samaria without an agreement."[ Bedein of Israel Resource New Agency contacted Netanyahu’s office to ask if Netanyahu agreed with Barak's statement but did not get an answer. []. One would have expected that Netanyahu's office could have easily told Bedein that it disagreed with Barak's support of a unilateral disengagement form the West Bank.

Ehud Ya'ari in his presentation before the  Washington Institute for Near East Policy says that in private conversations he understands that Netanyau is willing to evacuate the West Bank, except large settlement blocs. That is quite a  statement.

It is therefore difficult to say whether Netanyahu, under pressure, would be willing to evacuate from  the West Bank, let alone do so unilaterally  as Barak said he favours, if necessary.  

Is it possible that the Hashemite Kingdom feared in October that Ehud Barak's opinion would gain sway in Israel, and Israle would contemplate a unilareral withdrawal?  Did the King have the Crown Prince make this statement  about linking the West Bank to Jordan to let Israel know that if Israel were to ever decide that absent an agreement with the Palestinians, it would unilaterally withdraw from parts of the West Bank, the King of Jordan would step in and link these parts to Jordan ? Was this the King's way  of saying he would rather link the West Bank to Jordan than see the West Bank be taken over by Hamas, as was the case in Gaza, once Israel unilaterally withdrew?

Update: Since this article was originally written Ehud Barak has said he will not run in the upcoming elections. Is it possible he has realized that  his September remarks about being willing to unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank  would ruin him in an election campaign now taking place after the recent war in Gaza. If anyhting the recent war and the need for Operation Pillar of Defense has no doubt re-inforced in th emind of the Israel public how the unilateral aspect of the disengagement form Gaza was a complete mistake and disaster. By saying what he did in September, Barak in effect buried himself politically.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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