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Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Jordan and the ‘Deal of the Century’

Despite strong and historic ties with the US, Jordan is in a bind, worried it will be a victim if the “Deal of the Century” goes through

Hassan Al-Qishawi , Thursday 9 May 2019
King Abdullah II and Donald Trump
File Photo: US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters while meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, US, June 25, 2018 (Reuters)
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Jordan’s monarch King Abdullah II said it more than once; Amman will not accept any pressure resulting from its positions on the Palestinian cause and Jerusalem.

King Abdullah asserted there is no solution for the Palestinian issue except through a two-state solution that guarantees the creation of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The monarch’s position is very popular among his people. Political groups organise near daily marches across the country in support of their king, while other official and grassroots rallies also take place at universities and elsewhere.

The world is waiting for the so-called “Deal of the Century” to be revealed by Washington after US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner Kushner announced mid-February that the US will present the Palestinian-Israeli peace plan after general elections in Israel.

There were also rumours that the US is putting pressure on Jordan to accept the deal. Jumana Ghonaimat, spokesperson for the Jordanian government, said: “The people of Jordan always support their leadership, and are always ready, especially when it comes to Palestine, Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque. The king’s stand represents all Jordanians.”

She continued: “King Abdullah said Jerusalem is a red line, so are citizenship and an alternate homeland. All Jordanians support this.

” Ghonaimat added that, “Jordan and Palestine have a strong bond that is above any plots to sow division between them. We are steadfast in our position on the Palestinian cause, the creation of a Palestinian state, occupied Jerusalem, and Muslim holy sites.”

The Jerusalem office at Jordan’s Ministry of Religious Endowments is the official custodian of Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem holy sites, according to international law and it supervises religious affairs in Jerusalem according to the Wadi Al-Arab Agreement (the 1994 peace treaty between Jordan and Israel).

In March 2013, King Abdullah and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed an agreement giving Jordan the right of “guardianship and defence of Jerusalem and holy sites” in Palestine.

Nonetheless, Trump seems adamant to forge ahead with the deal of the century although almost no one supports it. Kushner announced 2 May that the deal will be unveiled next month, after the new Israeli government is formed and Ramadan ends.

Speaking at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Kushner said: “What we will prepare is a solution we believe would be a good starting point for political issues, and thus a framework to assist people to begin a better life.” He continued: “I was asked to find a solution for both sides and I believe what we will propose is a realistic work plan that can be implemented... I strongly believe this will lead both sides to a much better life.”

Kushner did not give any details about the deal, only saying it is composed of two main parts; one political regarding key issues such as Jerusalem and another economic, aiming to assist Palestinians to boost their economy.

Jordan's Role In The Deal

Based on leaks to the press in the West and Israel, Jordan will play a role in the deal, namely forming a confederation with the Palestinian Authority, and a civilian Palestinian administration to manage the West Bank.

Settlements in the West Bank would be annexed by Israel once and for all, and a united Jerusalem would become Israel’s capital.

Jordanians believe the deal aims to obliterate the Palestinian cause at Jordan’s expense, since press leaks also state that one million Palestinians will be given citizenship in Jordan in return for $45 billion.

Al-Dustour, a Jordanian newspaper, echoed the official line: “Any talk of an alternative homeland for Palestinians will be ignored by the Jordanian people. Jordan is Jordan, and Palestine is Palestine.”

Marwan Al-Maashar wrote in Al-Ghad newspaper 20 March: “The deal of the century is an existential threat to the Palestinian cause and Palestinian people.

This is merely an attempt to annex Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and areas where illegal settlements were built.

The biggest concern is the US’s determination to convince Jordan to take over administrative or political government for Palestinians, and thus block their right to create their own state on their land with East Jerusalem as its capital... Jordan fully understands that the deal of the century is an existential threat that has direct implications, namely eliminating the two-state solution from the US and Israel’s perspective.”

The status of Jerusalem is one of the main issues Jordan objects to since Kushner has said that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. King Abdullah will never agree to this, and has openly declared his position in recent days.

In an article published by Al-Ghad newspaper, Jordanian politicians called for serious thinking about the dangers of the deal, its impact on Jordan and Palestine, self-restraint, supporting the king’s “three No’s”, and assertion of legitimacy for Muslim and Christian holy sites in Palestine.

Former foreign minister Kamel Abu Jaber said Jordan cannot avoid the deal, suggesting that Jordan must remain calm, open minded and “think long and deep about what Jordan should do because we will be victimised by the deal”.

Mohamed Masalha, director of the Political Science Society, said it is apparent that a two-state solution and Jerusalem are off the table, even though both are at the core of Jordanian demands on the Palestinian issue. Masalha believes cohesion on the domestic front will strengthen the steadfastness of the Palestinian people.

Former cabinet member Tayseer Al-Sammadi said the main issue is how to postpone the deal, since Washington and Tel Aviv insist on implementing it.

Postponement could be possible if Jordan asked for time to carry out domestic reforms, including parliamentary elections, because any decision on the future of Jordan must be ratified by parliament. Israel already postponed the deal until elections there.

“We will be presented with the Deal of the Century by officials who have no idea what they are talking about, which is rather unusual,” Sammadi added.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 9 May, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Jordan and the ‘Deal of the Century’

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