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Suspicious of Kerry’s proposals

Jan 28,2014 - Last updated at Jan 28,2014

Public hostility is building up in Jordan towards US Secretary of State John Kerry’s much-publicised proposals to reach a framework agreement on final status issues between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Last week, small demonstrations broke out, after Friday prayers, in a number of towns to protest “Kerry’s project to impose a Jordanian role in the West Bank”.

Similarly, figures representing professional unions and political parties are planning to hold a national conference to “protect Jordan and Palestine and repulse Kerry’s peace plan”. And a number of lawmakers signed a memorandum to convene a special Lower House session to discuss Kerry’s controversial proposals.

Jordan’s main opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, issued a communiqué last week warning of an impending plan to liquidate the Palestinian cause, which, it said, threatens both Jordanians and Palestinians.

It said that the current regional situation will encourage the US and Israel to impose their conditions on the Palestinians and put pressure on Jordan.

One Islamist leader, Salem Al Falahat, told a local news website that while detailed information on Kerry’s proposals is scarce, it is clear that current negotiations will not serve the interests of Palestinians or Jordanians.

Palestinian sources said that Kerry has not submitted written proposals to either side, but outlined his thoughts on a number of crucial issues, such as borders, settlements, land swaps, refugees and East Jerusalem.

Leading Fateh movement official, Azzam Al Ahmad, said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas cannot accept what Kerry is offering.

Similarly, another Palestinian official, Yasser Abed Rabbo, told Al Hayat newspaper that both Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had rejected Kerry’s proposals.

Abed Rabbo gave the most detailed account of Kerry’s proposals. He said that Kerry suggested that the Palestinians recognise Israel as a Jewish state in return for allowing them to have their capital in parts of East Jerusalem.

Israel would also keep major settlements in the West Bank and lease others. It would also be in control of airspace and border points while the Jordan Valley would be monitored by a joint US, Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian forces.

The refugee issue would be solved in accordance with the Bill Clinton proposal: allowing a symbolic return of Palestinian refugees.

Abed Rabbo also said that Israel would maintain the right of hot pursuit into Palestinian territories. He said Kerry suggested that Israel’s security concerns would be reviewed in light of Palestinian adherence and preparedness. But the Palestinian official added that Netanyahu had rejected these suggestions.

Kerry met King Abdullah recently and briefed him on his plan. The Royal Court issued a statement reiterating Jordan’s position of backing the two-state solution, but adding that the Kingdom will support a deal that meets with its “higher interests”.

The same wording was used after the King met with Abbas and Netanyahu, separately, in the past two weeks.

Such development in the official Jordanian stance has raised questions about where the government stands on Kerry’s proposals.

Recently, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said that Jordan will not have a military role west of the River Jordan.

Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh was quoted as saying that Jordan will not accept Israeli military presence on its borders with the Palestinian state.

Other officials spoke of Jordan’s obligation to defend the rights of over two million Palestinian refugees on its territory, more than half of them are Jordanian citizens.

These statements have helped turn public opinion in the country against Kerry’s proposals.

Some pundits suggested that Jordan will come under pressure to play a political and military role in the West Bank.

The communiqué issued by the Islamist movement warned that Jordan will make concessions to Israel while political analyst Labib Kamahawi wrote that Jordan could come under pressure to play a security role in the West Bank on behalf of Israel.

Political analyst Hassan Barari wrote that Jordan is unable to define its high political interests in relation to Israel and the Palestinian issue. He warned that Kerry’s proposals will pave the way for the implementation of the “Jordan option”, which, he said, remains a viable Israeli choice.

Fears of the settlement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Jordan, under Kerry’s plan, have given conservative opponents of political reforms a platform to warn against deals that may come at the expense of East Bank Jordanians.

A recent initiative in the Lower House to grant the offspring of Jordanian women married to foreigners their civil rights is being resisted on account that it coincides with Kerry’s peace moves.

Former chief of the Royal Court, Riad Abu Karaki, made controversial comments on Facebook against such initiative.

If approved by the government, the decision will affect the civil rights of over 300,000 individuals. Critics believe it is a ploy to give citizenship to Palestinian refugees.

Palestinian and Israeli officials have been critical of Kerry’s proposals. But there is growing concern in Jordan that Abbas will succumb to US pressure on the issue.

How this affects Jordan remains an open question, but there is now pressure on the government to state its position on these proposals as public anxiety and suspicion reach critical levels.

The writer is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.

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