An invitation devoid of meaning

Palestinian-Jordanian relations are more complex than the relations the Palestinian people have with any other Arab country. The relations between the two sides have taken two extremely different forms during the last 50 years. They have ranged from the Jordanians fighting side-by-side with the Palestinians on behalf of the Palestinian cause against the Israeli occupation to the Jordanians fighting against the Palestinians, as happened in 1970.

The most recent and significant turning point in these relations was the disengagement decision made and implemented by the late King Hussein in 1988. Since then, relations between the two sides have gradually begun to take a more normal and stable form. On a public and official level, the Palestinians have begun to realize that there is no longer reason to fear a Jordanian desire for a role in the West Bank. The Jordanians have also begun to feel the tension between the two sides dissipating.

Jordan has played an especially positive and constructive role vis-a-vis the Palestinians in the peace process. At Madrid, the Jordanians accepted to form a joint delegation with the Palestinian side, to which they gave complete freedom of maneuver in terms of negotiations with Israel.

What brought a possible Jordanian role back into discussion was the desire of the Israeli government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to invite the Egyptians to play a role in the Gaza Strip and the Jordanians in the West Bank. In Gaza, there was a place for such a role, simply because Israel has some intention of making a certain kind of withdrawal. In the West Bank, however, Israel does not have any intention of making a serious withdrawal, which leaves its invitation to the Jordanians devoid of meaning.

Jordan, for its part, has not expressed interest in this Israeli invitation except within the limits that its coordination with the Palestinian Authority allows, which is simply the possible Jordanian training of Palestinian security. The June presence of Jordanian military officers with Israeli military officers on the West Bank side of the Jordan Valley created suspicion among Palestinians when reported in the media. Immediate, precise Jordanian assurances helped remove the concerns created by the incident among Palestinians, particularly on the official level. The fact remains that Israel has no intention of giving up its occupation in the West Bank, which leaves no room for competition between anybody concerning the replacement of that occupation.

Throughout the history of Israeli occupation since 1967, a Jordanian political role in the West Bank has been a tempting idea for Israeli governments. More than one–including those led by Labor and Likud–entertained this possibility. It has never and will never work, in spite of the very special relationship between the Jordanian and Palestinian peoples.

Sharon’s rule makes both Jordanians and Palestinians particularly sensitive to any Jordanian role, because Sharon is the author of the "Jordan is Palestine" theory. For this reason, it is a waste of time for any country to try to find alternatives to the solution of giving the Palestinian people their right of self-determination in their homeland, Palestine. The Palestinian people have already made it very clear that they reject any attempt to affect them in deciding on their leadership and their future. So while deviating from the principle of self-determination might buy time for this extremist government in Israel, it will never bring either of us any nearer to our objective–if that objective is peace and security for Israel, freedom and independence for Palestinians.