The Genesis of the Jordan Option and “Confederation with Jordan”

by Ted Belman
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While the Jordan Option has been discussed for 40 years now, it has not gotten any traction in its original form. It posited that Jordan was Palestine and aspired to co-opt the Hashemites to embrace this concept.

But the Hashemite Kingdom wanted no part in it. It wanted to keep Jordanians separate from Palestinians. The Palestinians represented a threat to their Kingdom. Thus it advocated for the creation of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River.

It wasn’t always so.

In my article Jordan Is Palestine I noted Jordan annexed these lands in 1950 calling them the West Bank of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan..

In How Arab Rulers Undermined a Palestinian State, recently published by Middle East Quarterly, the authors wrote:
“ the government systematically erased all traces of a distinct Palestinian identity in an attempt to create a wider Jordanian
national identity.

“A decade later, Abdullah’s grandson and successor King Hussein declared his firm opposition to the idea of a separate “Palestinian entity,” convening a conference in January 1960 of Hashemite loyalists to denounce the “despicable innovation” of the establishment of a Palestinian entity.

Thus it may be said that during this period, 1948 to 1967, Jordan was Palestine, no ifs, ands or buts.

But after the Arab League in June 1988 gave the PLO financial control of support for the Palestinians, King Hussein renounced all Jordanian claims to the West Bank, allowing the PLO to assume full responsibility there.
And so it remained.

Mudar Zahran, a Palestinian living in Jordan had other plans. He wanted to mobilize the Palestinians in Jordan to overthrow the Hashemite Kingdom in Jordan and make it a republic under his leadership. To this end, he organized the Jordanian Opposition Coalition (JOC) some seven years ago and convinced the leaders of all 13 refugee camps in Jordan to join. He even managed to get the largest Bedouin clan in Jordan to join.

At this time, he solicited my support in developing a new version of the Jordan Option (JO). I insisted that once he became the leader of Jordan, that Jordan should reaffirm Jordanian citizenship to all Palestinians and should invite all such Palestinians who lived elsewhere to emigrate to Jordan. He readily agreed. What motivated me was my desire to enable Israel to extend its sovereignty to Areas A, B and C as delineated by the Oslo Accords. To avoid being labeled as an Apartheid State,
Israel would only have to offer citizenship to stateless people, if any, and this would obviously not include Jordanian citizens.

I supported Martin Sherman’s idea of giving compensation to all Palestinians who would emigrate. But I thought it was too expensive. So I blended his idea with the Jordan Option. It was a tenth of the cost of Martin Sherman’s plan, for Israel to
induce Palestinians to emigrate to Jordan. It made more sense also, as the Jordanians and the Palestinians were part of the same families and shared the same language. In addition Ramallah is only 69 kilometers (43 miles) from Amman.

In 2015 Tablet published an interview of Ayelet Shaked in which she said:

“If you ask me how I think the Israeli-Arab conflict should be resolved, I would say that we must annex Area C, which is home to 400,000 Jews and 90,000 Arabs, and have Areas A and B become some sort of confederation with Jordan”.

In 2017, I organized a conference in Jerusalem to promote the Jordan Option and we called for the abdication by King Hussein. As a result we became mortal enemies of Hamas, PLO, Fatah and King Abdullah.

The Jordan Option at that time did not include a notion of confederation. That came later. We reached out to President Trump and asked for his support in making it a reality. Although we never heard back from him, we knew his team was informed of the Plan and was considering regime change in Jordan.

In October 2018, I wrote Trump’s Deal of the Century a.k.a The Jordan Option “According to a very well-informed source (and reiterated in 2022) , administration of the A areas, will pass from the PA to Jordan. These areas include, Tulkarn, Qalkilya, Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jericho.

The B areas will be absorbed into the C area in order to remove the Swiss cheese effect. Hebron, on the other hand will be administered by a joint local council made up of Israelis and Palestinians. This is the Confederation that Abbas rejected a few weeks ago.

“My source also tells me that the Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip will be given the option of being in a confederation either with Jordan or Egypt.

Either way, negotiating a Gaza truce is part of the deal. “This means that the PA will be done away with because its primary
function is to wage war against Israel’s legitimacy.”

In Nov 2018, I wrote Shaked touts ‘confederation’ of Jordan, Gaza, and parts of West Bank “Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has proposed a “confederation” between parts of the West Bank, Jordan, and Gaza.

“Our plan is to apply Israeli sovereignty on Area C and give the Palestinians living there full citizenship. Areas A and B will be part of a confederation, together with Jordan and Gaza,” “There’s a large Palestinian population in Jordan and the Palestinians already have a state in Gaza. In the distant future, a confederation of these three entities will be the right way forward”.

In May 2019, PA ‘ready to talk’ about confederation with Jordan ‘The PA’s Ambassador to Moscow, Abdel-Hafeez Nofal, said that the PA is “ready to talk about a “confederal union” with Jordan, Al-Resala newspaper reported yesterday.

But King Abdullah ended the discussion by saying, “There is no alternative to the two-state solution and the creation of an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.”

But the idea of confederation never died. It was resuscitated by Saudi Arabia.

On June 8, 2022, Al Arabiya News published The Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine” (Saudi Plan) calling for the merger of Jordan, Gaza and part of the ‘West Bank’ into one separate territorial entity.

“This proposed enlarged kingdom would include present-day Jordan, Gaza, and the West Bank (areas populated by Palestinians attached in a contiguous manner and physically connected to Jordan, i.e., not broken
up into islands).”

That is a far cry from the Arab Peace Initiatve (API) of 2002 which called for a Palestinian state east of the pre-67 boundary subject to minor adjustments.

The Jordan Option differs from the Saudi Plan in that it requires the end of the Hashemite Monarchy and the birth of the Republic of Jordan.  The Jordan River would remain as the western border. Jordan will not have sovereignty over any
lands west of the River but will be in charge of the Palestinian Authority which has an administrative role in A, B and Gaza, maybe forever. As such it should be totally acceptable to a majority of Israelis. The Israeli Centre/Left want separation from the Palestinians and the Right wants sovereignty over Area C. The Jordan Option satisfies both of these desires, yet it goes further than even this.

The Jordan Option includes offering incentives to Palestinians to emigrate to Jordan. These incentives will include free housing, free education, free healthcare and social security in Jordan.

Jordan, under Mudar Zahran’s leadership will accept all Palestinian emigrants but is against the expulsion of Palestinians from Israel. So is Israel.

Zahran will also accept the extradition by Israel of all Palestinian criminals. This will enable Israel to empty its prisons of Palestinians. He intends to offer them restricted liberty rather than imprisonment in Jordan.

As part of this Plan, Israel will then extend its sovereignty over all of Area C.

If one million Palestinians emigrate from Judea and Samaria over time, Israel will be able to extend its sovereignty over Areas A and B. If another million emigrate from Gaza, Israel will be able to extend its sovereignty over Gaza too.

Zahran also intends to rewrite the textbooks of both Jordan and the PA to reflect the truthful Jewish narrative rather than the false Palestinian narrative and to promote peace and coexistence and rather than resistance.

Finally, under his leadership, Jordan will join the Abraham Accords. Accordingly, the Jordan Option is a match made in heaven for both Jews and Palestinians.

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