Wednesday, March 07, 2007

What Would You Do To Save Your Kingdom?


“The wellspring of regional division, the source of resentment and frustration far beyond, is the denial of justice and peace in Palestine.

There are those who say, ‘It's not our business.’ But this Congress knows: there are no bystanders in the 21st Century, there are no curious onlookers, there is no one who is not affected by the division and hatred that is present in our world.
Some will say: ‘This is not the core issue in the Middle East.’ I come here today as your friend to tell you that this is the core issue. And this core issue is not only producing severe consequences for our region, it is producing severe consequences for our world.”

--King Abdullah of Jordan—speaking to the United States Congress, March 7, 2007.

* * * * *

The King is a well-spoken man, and is easy to like.

But “the denial of justice and peace in Palestine,” is not the well-spring of regional division. I’m fairly certain the King knows this.

Palestinian suffering is not causing Shiites and Sunnis to kill each other in Iraq, it is not causing the civil strive in Lebanon, and it is not causing mass murder in Sudan (Darfur).

Palestinian centrality is a red herring. If it weren’t, the King’s father, King Hussein, would have given the Palestinians the entire West Bank when Jordan controlled it before 1967.

What’s going on? Why is the King claiming that this is the central issue in the Middle-East, when anyone but a casual observer knows that this is not the case?

Because he is doing what he can to protect and strengthen his Kingdom: The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Continued Palestinian unrest is the well-spring that could lead to the demise of his Kingdom.

The King needs a settlement that confines Israel and Palestine to the geography of Israel and the territories, and he knows that his time is running out.

He knows that Jordan has no historical business existing. The Kingdom is a legacy of Britain’s global chess game with France at the end of World War I.

The King feels the heat, and his monarchy is in trouble.

When his father faced a Palestinian attempt to end his rule in 1970, Israel, purportedly at America’s request, came to Jordan’s rescue. With an eighty percent self-identifying Palestinian population, it is likely that one day, these people will reject Hashemite rule.

As King Abdullah’s father, King Hussein, said of Palestinians and Jordanians on Egyptian television in 1977. “The two peoples are actually one. This is a fact.”

There is no reason to distinguish between people living on one side of the Jordan River from those living on the other side when they share the same heritage, culture, faith (generally), language, and ethnicity.

There is no reason that the laudable international goal of having each People achieve self-determination should mean that Palestinians, even if acknowledged as a Nation, should have two States.

Since Israel isn’t viable within its 1967 borders—its current level of economic strength notwithstanding—if the King really wanted peace and justice for Palestinians, he would offer West Bank Palestinians homes in Jordan. There is room. But he won’t make that offer. From his personal point of view, he can’t.

If he did, his new “subjects” might add to a chorus that would invite him to return to his Hashemite home in present day Saudi Arabia. His family’s historical enemy, the House of Saud would not exactly welcome his return with open arms.

I wonder if the King would argue that this historical fight, too, is somehow caused by the lack of Palestinian justice?

King Abdullah is, as they say, between a rock and a hard place. His only way out is to convince the world of Palestinian centrality and hope the United States strong-arms Israel. And so the King will pursue this strategy with gusto.

But don’t be misled by warmth or charm, or calls for peace that preserve Hashemite rule over all of present-day Jordan without sacrifice. This is just what a King does to save his Kingdom.

--David Naggar

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