Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/8/2010 (3846 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
TEL-AVIV -- While the U.S., the European Union, Israel and the Palestinian Authority are trying to eliminate the last obstacles for relaunching direct negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, there is a dramatic activity in Jordan that could eventually affect the outcome of the peace process.
The growing privatization in Jordan, combined with increased unemployment, rampant corruption and a sharp decrease in Arab financial assistance, had thrown Jordan into its sharpest economic crisis in years.
In an effort to contain the growing dissatisfaction with the situation, King Abdullah dissolved parliament and appointed Sair Rifai, as a caretaker prime minister earlier this year.
Rifai, 44, the son of a family that traditionally supported the Hashemite monarchy, drafted a new constitution and set Nov. 9 for new elections.
This was met immediately by sharp opposition of an unthinkable coalition -- the Muslim Brotherhood and army veterans. Both groups are calling for a boycott of the elections.
The Muslim group, assisted by West Bank Palestinians who became full Jordanian citizens in 1950, are demanding the inclusion of about 1.2 million Palestinians who came to Jordan after the 1967 Six Day War. Despite the fact that they are fully integrated into the economy, academia and the media, they are qualified as "displaced" and have no political rights.
In contrast, the army veterans who number more than 700,000, are totally opposed to the participation of those "displaced" Palestinians in the next elections. They argue that should the 1.2 million Palestinians participate, the percentage of the "authentic" Jordanians will decrease from 57 per cent to 43 per cent.
"Jordan will not be Jordan anymore" and the country will be usurped by the Palestinians, it is argued. Hence, the army veterans' call for a boycott.
This explosive domestic situation helps explain why King Abdullah overcame his opposition to Netanyahu and is personally involved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Sources familiar with Jordan's politics explain that, in the event of a Palestinian state, Jordan would not expel the "displaced Palestinians." They will remain as Jordanian residents with no voting rights.
This raison d'etat convinced King Abdullah to end his boycott of Netanyahu and host him for a six-hour luncheon at his Amman palace where the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was discussed at length.
What, then, is still delaying the launching of the direct Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations?
Israeli sources say that because of Hamas, and opposition within his own Fatah movement, Mahmoud Abbas is looking for a "fig leaf" to cover abandoning his previous pre-conditions.
At first, Abbas wanted a formal letter from Obama that the direct negotiations would lead to a Palestinian state based on 1967 ceasefire lines with minor modifications. Obama refused.
In an effort to save the negotiations from collapse, even before they started, the EU suggested that negotiations will be based on the March 19 statement of the Quartet calling for the continuation of the Israeli freeze on settlement construction in the West bank beyond the 10-month moratorium that Israel had accepted and which is due to expire on Sept. 26. The Quartet also called for the establishment of a Palestinian state withing 24 months.
Samuel Segev is the Winnipeg Free Press Middle East correspondent.