Jordan's Abdullah may fly to Ramallah Sunday for talks with Mahmoud Abbas on new plan, first revealed Friday in DEBKAfile Exclusive. The plan to link Jordan and West Bank was presented to Israel and Palestinians last week by a high-ranking Jordanian emissary
May 11, 2007, 12:44 PM (GMT+02:00)
King Abdullah II of Jordan looks back to the West Bank
Abdullah's travel plan to Ramallah is not officially confirmed. Next week, he meets Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert in Petra.
Earlier, our Middle East sources revealed: Amman proposes a new state framework linking Jordan and the Palestinian Authority to be established before the rise of an independent Palestinian state. Amman is not thinking in terms of confederation or the West Bank's reversion to annexed Hashemite territory, the status it held before Jordan's 1967 war defeat.
Former Jordanian prime minister Abdul Salem Majali, who led the negotiations which culminated in the 1994 peace accord with Israel, presented the outline to Israeli and Palestinian leaders. It also calls for Jordanians to be part of the Palestinian team holding final-status negotiations with Israel. Amman is acting out of concern for the shaky Palestinian Authority, but DEBKAfile notes that the framework could draw Israeli into backdoor recognition of Hamas's role in Palestinian government.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia are not in favor of these links. Cairo suspects that if the arrangement works on the West Bank, the Jordanians will want to scoop up the Gaza Strip too. Riyadh is historically opposed to any enhancement of the Hashemite throne, a former rival.
Olmert assigned Kadima member of the Knesset foreign affairs committee Othniel Schneller to discuss the initiative with Majali, who then presented it in broad lines to a number of Israeli politicians - from the left-wing Meretz leader Yossi Beilin to the right-wing minister Avigdor Lieberman. The king, he said, had not yet signed off onto the project whose exact shape has yet to be determined. It was gaining support among the heads of Jordan's security services as a strategy for fortifying the kingdom against the shocks of the US troop withdrawal from Iraq, which would leave the kingdom exposed on two fronts: Iraq, where Amman expects the US military to start pulling out in late summer, and the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority is on its last legs. Its breakdown would engulf the territory in the sort of chaos and violence which has swept the Gaza Strip.
DEBKAfile's military sources disclose exclusively that the kingdom has set in train military and securing preparations for the coming upheavals. King Abdullah is convinced that resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict is more urgent than ever.
The Jordanian initiative if finalized would kick off, according to Majali, with Jordanian-Palestinian talks for two objectives:
1. To delineate the relationship and define the political and security links between Jordan and the West Bank.
2. To forge a Jordanian-Palestinian consensus on the demands put to Israel in negotiations for a permanent solution of the conflict.
Sources close to Israeli security circles doubt the tottering Palestinian Authority will survive long enough to see the final shape of the Jordanian plan. Amman will then have to choose another Palestinian partner, an alternative to Abbas.