AMMAN: Jordan’s King Abdullah reacts angrily to any suggestion that he might accept a U.S. deal to end the Arab-Israeli conflict that would make his country a homeland for Palestinians.
Speaking to the armed forces in March, he rejected the idea of Jordan as an alternative state for Palestinians, saying: “Don’t we have a voice in the end?”
Already facing economic discontent at home, Abdullah must navigate diplomatic moves by his U.S. allies that are upturning a regional status-quo that has underpinned Jordan’s internal politics and foreign relations for decades.
After Israel’s creation in 1948 Jordan absorbed more Palestinians than any other country, with some estimates that they now account for more than half the population.
Any changes to the international consensus on a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, and Palestinian refugees’ right of return to what is now Israel and the Palestinian territories, long buttressed by U.S. policy, therefore reverberate harder in Jordan than anywhere else.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s long-promised “Deal of the Century” to resolve the conflict is still secret, though leaked details suggest it dumps the idea of a full Palestinian state in favor of limited self-rule in part of the Occupied Territories, which would undermine Palestinians’ right to return.
It envisages an expansion of Gaza into part of northern Egypt, under Egyptian control, with Palestinians also having a smaller share of the West Bank and some areas on the outskirts of Jerusalem and no control over their borders, the leaks say.
Jordanian fears about what the plan portends for the region, for their Palestinian citizens, and for the politics of their own country, have been aggravated by Trump’s readiness to upturn U.S. policy.
American officials deny contemplating making Jordan a Palestinian homeland, pushing it to take a role in governing parts of the West Bank or challenging the right of King Abdullah’s dynasty to custodianship of Jerusalem’s holy sites.
But Trump’s radical approach to the issue, and recent statements by his ambassador to Israel that it had a right to annex some of the West Bank have done little to assuage Jordanian concerns.
PALESTINIANS IN JORDAN
Few subjects in Jordan are more politically charged than the role, presence and future thereof Palestinians. The issue is so sensitive that the government publishes no data on how many of its 8 million citizens are also of Palestinian descent, though a recent U.S. congressional report put it at more than half.
Despite the U.S. denials, Jordanians fear that Trump is returning to an old Israeli theme: that Jordan is Palestine and that is where the Palestinians of the West Bank should go.
It could not have come at a worse time for the 57-year-old Abdullah, whose country is facing economic challenges that led to protests and a change of government last year.
While many Palestinians are integrated in Jordan, and many descendants of refugees have never set foot in their original homeland, some native Jordanians have never acknowledged that they will stay permanently.
They fear Trump’s plan could alter the demography and politics of a nation shaped by the presence of Palestinians, who hold full citizenship but are marginalized and seen as a political threat by some people of Jordanian descent.
But Abdullah’s decision that Jordan should attend an economic conference that is part of the U.S. plan showed that despite mounting alarm at home, Amman cannot ignore pressure from richer, more powerful allies in the West and the Gulf.