The date of September 24th marked a turning point for Palestinians in the recent crisis generated by the normalization deals signed on September 15th between Israel and UAE and Bahrain, in a ceremony hosted by the US.
On one hand, this Thursday, the Jordanian King Abdullah II received Egypt Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, France Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, and European Union Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process Susanna Terstal for discussions regarding the Palestinian cause.
King Abdullah stressed the importance of maintaining coordination on issues of mutual concern, foremost of which are efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East and reach political solutions to regional crises, according to a Royal Court statement. Also, his Majesty reaffirmed Jordan’s position on the Palestinian cause, and the need to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of the two-state solution, guaranteeing the establishment of an independent, sovereign, and a viable Palestinian state, on the 4 June 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side by side with Israel, in peace and security.
The visit by the foreign ministers of Egypt and France, and the EU special representative, is in line with continued coordination and consultation on the Palestinian cause, and efforts to resume Palestinian-Israeli negotiations to end the conflict. The meeting was also attended by the Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and Adviser to His Majesty for Policies Bisher Khasawneh.
As a conclusion to the meeting, the foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt, France, and Germany urged Israel and the Palestinians to engage in “credible dialogue” to restore “hope” to the peace process. “Ending the stalemate in peace talks, the creation of political horizons and the restoration of hope through credible dialogue must be a priority,” they said in a statement.
It is important to mention that talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been frozen since 2014, and a US peace plan announced in January has been welcomed by Israel and rejected outright by the Palestinians as biased.
After Thursday’s meeting, the ministers stressed “the urgency of the resumption of serious, meaningful and effective negotiations on the basis of international law and agreed on parameters directly between the parties or under the UN umbrella.”
“We call upon the parties to commit to past agreements and to resume credible dialogue on this basis,” they said. Also, “the suspension of Israel’s planned annexation of Palestinian lands in the West Bank should become permanent”, the ministers added Thursday, stressing the “importance” of the UAE and Bahrain deals with Israel.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi warned of the dangers of “a political stalemate in the Palestinian-Israeli negotiation”. AFP quoted him saying the following: “There has to be progress towards a comprehensive and just peace”.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Israel and the Palestinians “must quickly resume dialogue”. “In the immediate term, we must rebuild confidence to allow the relaunching of the negotiation process, which is in the interest of both parties,” he told journalists.
On the other hand, the other event of the day was a two-day reunion between Fatah and Hamas officials, brokered by Turkey in Istanbul.
At the end of the talks, in an official joint statement, Fatah and Hamas movements declared they have agreed to hold Palestinian elections after nearly 15 years. Parliamentary and presidential polls will be scheduled within six months under a deal reached between Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh. The last Palestinian parliamentary elections were held in 2006 when Hamas won an unexpected landslide.
“The two sides have agreed in principle to hold elections within six months,” said Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas official in Istanbul.
Fatah official Jibril Al-Rajoub said Abbas would issue a decree setting a date. But he said the vote would be in stages – starting with parliament, then electing a new president, and finally choosing members of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Palestinians’ highest decision-making body.
On September 17th, Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz reiterated his nation’s firm stance on the Palestinian cause, warning that a “comprehensive peace” is impossible as long as Israel continues acting unilaterally, Anadolu Agency reported the Jordan News Agency as saying. “A comprehensive and just peace will not be achieved unless the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people are met,” he said in a statement. “We will not reach a just and comprehensive peace if Israel continues with its unilateral measures, which undermines the rights of the Palestinian people to establish their independent state on their national soil, with Jerusalem as its capital.” Razzaz said Jordan is ready to have a unified stance with fellow Arab countries with regard to all regional and external challenges.
Against a changing geopolitical terrain, Jordan is trying to adapt pragmatically to the reality that Arab consensus on the Palestinian issue may be breaking up. For decades Jordan, the signatory of a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, positioned itself as a buffer between Israel and the Gulf states. Its unique ties to the Palestinians played a pivotal role in sustaining its commitment to the two-state solution, especially under Trump’s presidency. King Abdullah was quick to reject Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to lead efforts to salvage UNRWA, the UN body responsible for the welfare of millions of Palestinian refugees. Amman ignored Trump’s peace plan that was unveiled last January while continuing to defend the two-state solution. However, Jordan is also careful not to antagonize the US, its primary political, economic, and military backer. While Israel is celebrating normalization with two Gulf countries, its peace with Jordan remains frail at best, with Abdullah not hiding his suspicions of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s intentions of changing the status quo of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City, over which the Jordanian monarch holds a special role as custodian.
Professor of political science at the University of Jordan Hassan Barrari told Al-Monitor that the recent normalization agreements present a series of strategic challenges for Jordan. “For one, these agreements will not stop Netanyahu’s annexation plans, nor do they end the conflict with the Palestinians along with the two-state solution, which is an existential issue for Jordan,” he said. “Jordan has lost its role as a gateway to any Israel-Gulf security and economic arrangements, while the decades-old Arab solidarity with the Palestinians is wavering. Moreover, Jordan fears that its role over Jerusalem holy places may be compromised as the UAE will now fly Muslim pilgrims directly to Israel and bypassing Jordan,” Barrari added. “Let’s also consider that the demise of the two-state solution, which Israel rejects, endangers Jordan’s security and stability, which means that even though we have a peace treaty with Israel, future confrontations between the two cannot be discounted,” he said.