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Fear of a behind-the-scenes Palestinian-Israeli accord

Jan 06,2014 - Last updated at Jan 06,2014

It is not in Jordan’s interest that the Palestinian Authority cut a deal with Israel while keeping Jordan in the dark. Many in Jordan, myself included, ponder whether such a deal would endanger the Jordan’s vital interests in the final status talks.

With US Secretary of State John Kerry’s heavy involvement in the peace talks and his pressure on the PA to conform to Israeli terms, Jordanians are apprehensive.

Despite their public statements to the contrary, senior Jordanian officials fear that the PA may cut a deal with Israel at Jordan’s expense.

Having experienced the Palestinians’ habit to succumb to the Israeli schemes and pressure, Jordanians are wary that President Mahmoud Abbas may opt for a deal with the Israelis that could jeopardise Jordan’s interests in the final status talks.

Few, if any, in Jordan views favourably the Palestinian negotiators. The common feeling among many Jordanian officials is that Abbas takes Jordan for granted. Abbas, they believe, is more interested in an agreement with Israel that could lead to an independent Palestinian state and will give up on the refugees’ rights, and that Jordan cannot defy such an agreement and risk its relationship with the US.

In a rare public lecture, former Jordanian prime minister Marouf Bakhit said last week that Jordan should not trust the Palestinian negotiators. He suspects that the PA would act out of desperation and sacrifice Jordan’s interest in the final status talks.

While Bakhit is not holding an executive post, many believe that his message was coordinated with the government’s.

Bakhit’s lecture made headlines in Jordanian local newspapers. Soon many members of Parliament reiterated the message delivered by Bakhit in his public lecture. For all intents and purposes, Jordan, Bakhit warned, should be alert.

While historically there has been no love lost between Jordan and the Palestinian national movement, the two sides are no longer mortal adversaries. Once Jordan gave up its claim on the Palestinian land and accepted the right of the PLO to represent the Palestinians, differences were kept on the backburner.

When Jordan started to publicly advocate the two-state solution, Palestinian leaders began to feel relieved. King Abdullah brought up the two-state solution in much of his dealing with the West.

And yet, Abbas defines an acceptable agreement differently. Caught in domestic rivalry with Hamas, Abbas fears that his standing could take a nosedive if he fails to bring the Israelis to agree to a two-state solution. Also, his organisation is desperate for an “achievement” in the peace talks to be in a better position to compete with Hamas in the future.

Many Jordanian politicians and intellectuals understand, and indeed fear, the grave consequences of this logic. As a quid pro quo for establishing an independent state, the Palestinians may write off the right of return of the refugees.

Over the last decade, Israeli leaders have made the Palestinian recognition of the “Jewishness” of Israeli state key to their negotiation with the Palestinians. Arabs, on the whole, think that such recognition would mean abolishing of the right of return of the Palestinian refugees.

The problem with the Jordanian anger and suspicion is that Jordan never articulated an alternative plan. While Jordanians are almost certain that the outcome of any peace deal between the Palestinians and Israel would be at their expense, it is not possible to say what Jordan would do to get different results.

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