Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Jordan opportunity

Yoel Meltzer
Israel Opinion

Should the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN fail to produce any tangible results, current events in Syria may have the unexpected effect of presenting Israel and the region with a very rare opportunity.

In addition to Hezbollah possibly losing support from Syria should Assad fall, the ouster of the Syrian dictator could have serious ramifications for the Hashemite regime in Jordan.

Although not considered a ruthless dictator like Assad, King Abdullah is similar in that he represents a very small ruling minority - in Syria we have the Alawites while in Jordan it is the Hashemites. Moreover, with most power concentrated in the hands of the Hashemites and their assorted Bedouin allies, much of the roughly 70% Palestinian majority feels alienated or oppressed; indeed, Jordan’s Palestinians would welcome a real change. While the protests in Jordan have not reached the level of intensity as in other Arab countries, they are nevertheless constant and accompanied by repeated calls for change. Moreover, attempts by the king to placate his critics by offering to implement various reforms have been rejected, as they would still allow the king to preserve most of his absolute powers.

With the pressure mounting, the king is surely looking at events in Syria with a very watchful eye. If such a ruthless and feared dictator as Assad, not to mention long time Arab rulers like Mubarak or Gaddafi, can be toppled and removed from power, then the relatively weaker King Abdullah may realize that his days as the leader of Jordan are numbered. The tsunami of change sweeping the region simply cannot be stopped.
Don’t wait for chaos
This being the case, Israel and its supporters should start planning now for the "day after" in Jordan, rather than waiting for chaos to grip our eastern neighbor. Moreover, the incentive should not only be to preserve stability on the border, itself an important aspect, but rather the understanding that the region may be presented with a historic opportunity to finally settle the Palestinian issue.

September events at the UN aside, it is clear that the Oslo two-state approach is a proven failure and that further territorial concessions by Israel will only lead to further warfare. As Einstein said "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." In such an environment, the paradigm for settling the dispute must be changed.

For this reason Israel and its supporters would be wise to discreetly begin hooking up with alternative opposition leaders in Jordan. One such thinker is Mudar Zahran, a former Jordanian political insider turned dissident, who is openly promoting the "Jordan is Palestine" option as the only solution capable of bringing real peace and stability to the region.

Moreover, his calls for the establishment of a Jordanian democracy state that will enjoy peaceful ties with Israel and focus on the development of a thriving economy in order to encourage Palestinians from around the world - including from Judea and Samaria - to opt for a life in Jordan, is something that should be welcomed by anyone who truly cares about the region. Such option would be the only realistic way to end a decades-long humanitarian crisis.

Should Israel and its supporters fail to seize the opportunity to finally settle the Palestinian issue, the eventual fall of King Abdullah will create the usual vacuum that in all likelihood will be filled by various anti-Israel and anti-American forces.

Yoel Meltzer is a freelance writer living in Jerusalem. His personal blog is

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