Jordan-Palestine Confederation: A Strategic Option for Peace

The Palestine-Jordan Confederation is a creative idea that is urgently needed to break the impasse between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

jordan-palestine-confederationThe idea of a Jordan-Palestine Confederacy had recently surfaced again more than forty years following its rejection by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel when late King Hussein of Jordan originally proposed it back in 1972. “King Hussein was a visionary leader far ahead of his time. His 1972 confederacy proposal was another lost opportunity,” lamented Professor Mohammed Dajani Daoudi on his Facebook page. “It is not lost. It still can come back,” responded Israeli journalist Pinhas Inbari.

The confederation proposal was raised publicly in mid-2016, when former Jordanian Prime Minister Abdul Salam Majali called for a confederation while on a visit to the northern West Bank city of Nablus. Hardcore Palestinians and Jordanians opposed the idea of the confederation since in the view of the first it would dilute the concept of an independent Palestine, while the second were concerned that Jordan may become Palestine.

Palestinian professor Sari Nusseibeh supported the idea saying,

“The confederation option with Jordan is a good idea, provided that a Palestinian state is established and that East Jerusalem remains a capital for the Palestinians. The relationship between the Palestinians and the Israelis does not bode well in light of the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which makes the confederation with Jordan an appropriate solution for the Palestinians to overcome this impasse and their difficult situation. Yet this requires prior Jordanian and Israeli approval. The Palestinians and the Jordanians have historical relations and ancient family ties and the confederation may be an alternative accepted by the Palestinians to get rid of the Israeli occupation.”

Confederation as a strategic option

The threat of rising extremism and violence which flares in the region gave the concept of a Palestinian-Jordanian confederal alliance an unprecedented urgency and importance. Failure to reach a comprehensive peace settlement for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict precipitated a potentially explosive situation, with deep implications for stability and security, regionally and globally. Should the Palestinian Authority as a nation-state entity fail or collapse as some predict, this may pose a serious threat to the Palestinian people, to their neighbors, particularly Jordan, and to other states in the region. Preventing such an outcome, and preventing the Palestinian state or entity from failing, is a strategic option that need to be considered seriously to arrest the fatal slide from the present political instability to a catastrophic collapse of regional security by forming a confederal alliance with Jordan.

Desperation mixed with a lack of faith in the peace process and their weak and ineffective leadership, the persistent expansion of illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as the slipping away of their aspirations for independence had spurred many Palestinians to warm up to this old idea. Palestinians hope that forging a close alliance with Jordan may provide them with greater political leverage with Israel and protection on the regional and international stage. Palestinian public opinion polls show growing support for the confederation option with Jordan. By culture, history, religion, proximity, and family relations both Jordanians and Palestinians are closely knit. Historically and demographically, Palestinians are tied to Jordan and to the Palestinian population living in Jordan.

Confederation political system

According to this model, the confederation system would be composed of two states, Jordan and Palestine, and two people with two capitals – East Jerusalem for the Palestinians and Amman for the Jordanians – a centralized judiciary, one army led by the Jordanian king, one centralized council of ministers, free trade as well as joint industrial and tourism zones, one educational system, and one bi-national legislative assembly elected by the two peoples.

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The parliament would convene in a joint session; the security and anti-terror activities on the border crossings and in the West Bank will be undertaken jointly by the Jordanian army and the Palestinian police in coordination with Israel. Citizens of both states would have full freedom of movement between the two states. A joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation would conduct permanent status peace negotiations with Israel. Under the confederation proposal, power would not be shared by Palestine and Jordan. Rather, each state would have complete authority over its own internal and international affairs.

The two states would enter a joint security agreement, which would likely see Jordanians taking part in helping secure the Palestinian state’s border. Following a permanent status agreement, Israel would be offered to join an economic confederacy with the Palestinian-Jordanian confederation. Israeli army would transfer control of the West Bank to the Jordanian security forces and would cede control over East Jerusalem.

By understanding the underlying challenges and identifying the complex indicators of state cooperation and possible integration, it is possible to develop strategies in which Jordan and Palestine would form a confederal structure based on other international experiences such as the Swiss experience. The door would be open for the possibility of including other neighboring states in one form or another such as Israel, Iraq, Syria and Egypt.

The Palestine-Jordan Confederation could be an out-of-the-box creative idea that is urgently needed to break the impasse between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

To pave the way for the confederation, Jordan and Palestine increased their coordination activities in a number of spheres such as: (1) Emphasizing security cooperation in the light of the growing threat of Salafi groups flowing from Syria, Iraq, and Iran; (2) Increasing economic and trade relations; (3) Improving political coordination; (4) Solidifying positions in defense of Islamic holy sites particularly Al-Haram al-Sharif; (5) Standing up against the Israeli policy of annexation and settlement construction and land annexation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The international community and Israel may look favorably on the issue as a way to move forward with the peace process. Israeli diplomat Uri Savir asserted that the Trump administration which views favorably a peace negotiations based on the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002, may favor advancing the Palestinian statehood issue through an attempt to reach a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation agreement backed by the Arab League.

A Jordanian-Palestinian Confederacy would overcome the Palestinian-Israeli political stalemate and open the way to end Israel’s continued concerns and hesitation to renew the 1993 Oslo peace process suspended since April 2014 in reaction to Fatah-Hamas rapprochement helping to end Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories. Such a confederation would greatly ease the flow of people and goods across the Jordan River and allow the Palestinians to have direct and quick access to Arab and international markets.

One big advantage for such a confederation is its potential in solving the problem of the right of return of the Palestinian refugees by having them integrated in this confederation. Thus, reinstating the political linkage with Jordan would increase the possibilities for peaceful resolution of the conflict and ensure national security, political stability and economic prosperity for both nations.

Adi Munther Dajani is a Ph.D. Candidate at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary.