Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has outlined a unilateral plan to build the infrastructure and institutions for an independent Palestinian state within two years – the first time the Palestinian Authority has attempted to do so. The proposal, which Fayyad intends to move forward on without waiting for the outcome of the peace negotiations with Israel, calls for new seaports and railways and an international airport in the Jordan Valley, as well as a new capital in East Jerusalem. The U.S. welcomed the initiative, although Israeli officials have dismissed it as inviable. But from a realistic standpoint, Mr. Fayyad’s plan is totally unrealistic to say the least.
“We must confront the whole world with the reality that Palestinians are united and steadfast in their determination to remain on their homeland, end the occupation and achieve their freedom and independence. The world should also know that we are not prepared to continue living under a brutal occupation and siege that flouts not only the law, but also the principles of natural justice and human decency,” he added.
Fayyad continued by saying that his plan’s priorities included ending economic dependence on Israel and foreign aid, shrinking the size of the government, expanding the use of technology, unifying the legal system and using a performance-based pay system in the public sector. Overall, Fayyad’s optimistic and promising vision that has yet to come to terms with the reality – not only accepted by Fayyad’s supporters but by the Palestinians themselves.
Fatah officials are critical of the fact that it was Fayyad – who is not even a member of their organization, made a speech that probably should have been made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen). Leading Fatah members came short in accusing Fayyad of trying to take over the PA’s leadership outright. The ‘grassroots’ leadership – long left out of office, is nervously aware of the fact that many in the international community would like to see western educated Fayyad become the next Palestinian president. But Fayyad, a technocrat with no significant political base, is heading a controversial cabinet which Islamist Hamas rivals refuse to recognize. After losing the Gaza Strip to Hamas in 2007 the Fatah movement now fears that a new force may also compromise its shaking hegemony in the West Bank.
The Islamic fundamentalist Hamas was quick to announce that Fayyad’s 65 page statement “was not even worth the paper it was written on.” In fact, at a closer look Salam Fayyad’s program appeared to be a wish-list, rather than a detailed blueprint. Peace talks with Israel, in which Palestinians seek a state on Israeli-occupied land, have been completely deadlocked since last December, not that they had achieved any progress during the last decades, since the botched “Oslo Agreement”.
With its economy in shambles, not to mention the totally bankrupt status in Gaza, where half the Palestinian population lives under deplorable conditions, ruled by Hamas. The Palestinian Authority is heavily dependent on foreign assistance for most of its budget. In 2008 alone, it received 1.8 billion in financial support – the majority of which soon dwindled into the pockets of a largely corrupt administration.
A Palestinian State, even if it should include the entire West Bank area, completely devoid of Jewish settlements, would be a non-starter in any category. Regarded only from a geo-political aspect, the so-called West Bank is completely landlocked, lacking adequate space for a modern airport, not to mention seaside harbor (as long as the Gaza Strip is rule by renegade Hamas).
But for this sordid political situation, the Palestinians can blame only themselves. Having missed all past chances for a self-ruled state, by short-sighted leaderships, since the termination of the British 28 year Mandate in 1948, their only hope for a viable solution would be the so-called “Jordan option”.
The world is known to have a short and unfortunately too prejudiced memory in regarding the Israel-Palestinian conflict. A brief retrospect seems necessary to place the usually overreacted “settlement” issue into its right perspective.
Already back in 1937, the Peel Commission, placed by British Royal Decree, offered the Palestinian leadership a significant portion of Palestine for a state, and they flatly rejected it. The offered share of Western Palestine would have been larger than the landmass proposed in 1947 by the U.N. Partition Plan, and the Partition Plan would have given the Palestinians more land than they would have had under the Armistice Lines of 1949, following Israel’s War of Independence. Subsequent agreements including the 1993 Oslo Accords, 2000 Camp David II Summit, would have given the Palestinians nearly 82 Percent of the West Bank, but Yassir Arafat rejected this, opting for the bloodiest Intifada instead.
It seems that the reason for such staunch resistance to reasonable compromises had emerged from the so-called Palestinian “Phased Plan,” inaugurated in June 1974 by the Palestinian National Council. This called for a strategy to “liberate” all of Palestine through both armed struggle and diplomatic double-talk – in effect, dismantle the 1948 UN created Jewish State of Israel. Established under such violent conditions, such a state would be a haven for assorted jihadist terror groups, including al-Qaeda. In Hamas-governed Gaza, this is not merely a possible scenario, but vividly presents a living reality.
In fact, judging by its past performance and its geo-political constraints already mentioned, a future Palestinian state would be unstable and violent at best. The Fatah and Hamas armed militias will fight not over ideology, but as much as over turf and profits. Again, this is not a guesstimate but a present reality. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi and Arabia would each seek to control such a state, while Shiite Iran would try to create a second Hezbollah in Gaza if not in the West Bank – all of which would eventually lead to regional wars, increased terrorism and possibly nuclear war. Iran, moreover, would use jihadist elements in Gaza and the West Bank to destabilize the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and replace it with a jihadist regime.
Under the circumstances, the only reasonable solution to the Palestinian’s plight would be a “Jordanian Option”, which would absorb Palestinian territories and people in a Jordan-Palestinian confederation.
But this option is precisely what the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan fears to happen. And King Abdullah II has every reason to avoid this like the Plague. It all happened in the past. Rather than attempting to establish an independent Palestinian State in the West Bank after the 1948 War, then King Abdullah of Jordan formally annexed the West Bank, thereby uniting the two banks of the Jordan River under the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, giving all resident Palestinians automatic Jordanian citizenship. This situation, remains until June 1967, when Egypt’s President Abdul Nasser scammed young King Hussein to attack Israel, resulting in the Kingdom losing all its West Bank territories and receiving instead a massive refugee influx, which grew, in time, to become more than 70% of the Jordanian population. The inevitable omen happened soon after, when during the terrible ” Black September” 1970 King Hussein feared for his kingdom, as Palestinian factions, led by Yassir Arafat threatened a takeover, supported by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, barely winning by a thread with a determined armed intervention, fending off a Syrian-Iraqi military offensive, but not without willing, though low-profile Israeli help.
Under the highly tense situation presently prevailing, as Palestinian-Israeli peace talks are deadlocked and U.S. White House desperately looking for a solution out of this seeming endless nightmare, the Hashemite leadership in Amman is under extreme alarm status. In recent months, the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan has been awash in rumors about a US-Israeli plan to turn Jordan into a Palestinian state. Across the border, where Israel, ruled by the rightwing government, Knesset (Israel’s parliament) members have once more mentioned Jordan being the rightful Palestinian Statehood. Jordan is also alarmed by rumors regarding a US-backed scheme to turn Jordan into a homeland for Palestinians, King Abdullah is planning a series of ad-hoc steps to foil any attempt to resettle Palestinian refugees in the kingdom.
Sofar reports indicate that at least 40,000 Palestinians are believed to have already lost their status as Jordanian citizens in recent months. Fearing a plot by Palestinian officers serving in his armed forces, the king has ordered a massive purge of the Jordanian military, forcing hundreds of officers into early retirement. Although the official pretext seemed organizational, none of the officers dismissed from active duty bear Bedouin tribal names, which are regarded loyal to the Royal Household.
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.
King Abdullah II plight and the Israel-Palestinian deadlock are not the only crisis flashpoints currently destabilizing the Middle East. Baghdad is once more going up in flames, Iraqi and Syrians are at loggerheads blaming each other, Hezbollah is rearming with Iranian support, its rocket arsenals filled once more to the brim with deadly weapons threatening Israel. It seems that there is already growing concern among those who backed Barack Obama’s “new” approach to the Middle East when he took office 10 months ago. If Washington’s administrators will continue to ignore the fact that clocks in the Middle East go different, than Obama’s highly publicized “Road Map” will only add furor to an already dangerously simmering powderkeg. Based on his questionable performance sofar, the best one can conclude on President Obama’s new Mideast vision is: “total confusion”.